Social media firms react to criticism over tackling terrorism

Social media companies have strongly defended their actions after a British parliamentary report heavily criticised them for failing to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism.

In statements, Facebook, Google and Twitter, told the Irish Examiner they have speedy measures in place to take down extremist material and have co-operated with relevant authorities.

The internet giants, which have their European headquarters in Ireland, provided witness evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

In its report of radicalisation, published on Wednesday, the parliamentarians accused the corporations of “consciously failing” to stop extremists and terrorists using their sites.

It said Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (owned by Google) had become the “vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and the recruiting platforms for terrorism”. It said the corporations, which earned billions of euro in income, were “passing the buck” and hiding behind their supra-national legal status to avoid taking full responsibility.

In response to the report, Facebook UK director of policy, Simon Milner, said: “As I made clear in my evidence session, terrorists and the support of terrorist activity are not allowed on Facebook and we deal swiftly and robustly with reports of terrorism-related content.”

He said in the “rare instances” that they identify accounts or material as terrorist they also look for, and remove, relevant associated accounts and content.

“Online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies,” Milner said. He said Facebook have been working with experts for years on this.

A Google statement quoted a YouTube spokesman, who said: “We take our role in combatting the spread of extremist material very seriously. We remove content that incites violence, terminate accounts run by terrorist organisations and response to legal requests to remove content that breaks UK law.”

It said they are working with government and law-enforcement authorities. A statement from Twitter said it has suspended 235,000 accounts since last February for violating its policies related to the promotion of terrorism, bringing the total since mid-2015 to 360,000.

“As noted by numerous third parties, our efforts continue to drive meaningful results, including a significant shift in this type of activity off of Twitter,” it said.


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