Tech giants commit to end spread of terrorist content online

(Sceenshot)
(Sceenshot)

Five of the world’s largest tech companies have agreed to introduce new measures to their businesses to help eliminate violent and terrorist content from the internet.

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have agreed on a nine-point plan of action following a meeting with world leaders and tech firms in Paris named the Christchurch Call to Action.

France
Prime Minister Theresa May meets New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ahead of the forum (Thibault Camus/AP)

The meeting, hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was in response to the terror attack on mosques in Christchurch in March, in which 51 people were killed.

The attack was live streamed online and widely shared.

Prime Minister Theresa May was among the world leaders at the meeting.

However, the White House said on Wednesday that the US will not be backing the plans.

They said in a statement: “The United States stands with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online in the strongest terms.

“While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the Call.”

In a joint statement, the tech companies said they would each take individual steps to improve their policies on violent content, as well as increase collaboration in order to fight the spread of such content.

“The terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March were a horrifying tragedy. And so it is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence,” the statement said.

“The Christchurch Call announced today expands on the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), and builds on our other initiatives with government and civil society to prevent the dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content.

“Additionally, we are sharing concrete steps we will take that address the abuse of technology to spread terrorist content, including continued investment in technology that improves our capability to detect and remove this content from our services, updates to our individual terms of use, and more transparency for content policies and removals.

“Terrorism and violent extremism are complex societal problems that require an all-of-society response. For our part, the commitments we are making today will further strengthen the partnership that governments, society and the technology industry must have to address this threat.”

The five companies have each agreed to individually update their terms of use to expressly prohibit the distribution of such content, as well as establishing new tools to make it easier for users to report violent content.

The agreement also includes pledges to invest in new technology to better find and remove inappropriate posts, as well introduce new checks on livestreams and publish regular transparency reports.

Collaboratively, the five firms have said they will for the first time work together on crisis protocols, establishing with governments and other organisations a protocol for responding to active terror events.

The companies have also committed to increase the amount of shared technology development taking place in the industry, as well as offering more education for users on how to report and respond to such content.

Former deputy prime minister Sir Nick Clegg, who is now Facebook’s head of global affairs, attended the summit, along with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey.

The Government recently published a White Paper around online harms which called for a statutory duty of care to be introduced for internet firms, which would be enforced by a new independent regulator.

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