Silicon Valley is setting up an organization to fight online extremism

Sep 23, 2019, 2:57 PM
online extremism...
Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms say their joint effort to fight online extremism will now be independent. Photo: Getty Images

(CNN) — Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies announced Monday that they’re revamping an organization they established to fight online extremism in order to allow it to work more extensively with outside parties.

The announcement, which came on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, comes six months after the suspect in the New Zealand mosque shooting streamed the massacre live on Facebook. At least three atrocities in 2019 have involved suspects posting hate-filled messages on online forums in advance of an attack, including August’s shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) was setup in 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube, as a way for the companies to share information about violent terrorist content in order to remove it across platforms.

On Monday, GIFCT said it would become “an independent organization led by an executive director and supported by dedicated technology, counterterrorism and operations teams.” The organization will be funded by the major technology companies.

The move, GIFCT said, will “deepen industry collaboration with experts, partners and government stakeholders — all in an effort to thwart increasingly sophisticated efforts by terrorists and violent extremists to abuse digital platforms.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, is expected to appear alongside New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden at an event announcing the new GIFCT structure in New York on Monday evening. Facebook was roundly criticized in March when it failed to take action on the live video of the Christchurch shooting until after it was alerted to the video by police.

In May, the New Zealand and French governments led a push for the “Christchurch Call for Action,” an initiative to encourage tech companies and countries to work together to end the use of social media in acts of terrorism. The Trump administration did not sign the pledge, but said it supported “the overall goals reflected in the call.”

Amazon, LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, and WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, will join the consortium of companies supporting the organization, GIFCT said Monday.

Not among the companies supporting the initiative, however, is 8chan. The message board has been linked to at least three atrocities this year. In August, after the suspect in the El Paso attack posted a manifesto to 8chan, online services that had been providing services that were keeping 8chan online pulled their support for the site.

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Silicon Valley is setting up an organization to fight online extremism