Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism: An update on our progress two years on

 |   Microsoft Corporate Blogs

The following announcement was jointly written by Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft and posted to our respective online properties.

In summer 2017, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter came together to form the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).

The objective of the GIFCT has always been to substantially disrupt terrorists’ ability to promote terrorism, disseminate violent extremist propaganda, and exploit or glorify real-world acts of violence on our services. We do this by joining forces with counterterrorism experts in government, civil society and the wider industry around the world. Our work centers around three, interrelated strategies:

  • Joint tech innovation
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Conducting and funding research

Today, building on the commitments we made as part of the Christchurch Call to Action, we are adding a fourth pillar to our work that will focus on crisis response. Specifically, we are introducing joint content incident protocols for responding to emerging or active events like the horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch, so that relevant information can be quickly and efficiently shared, processed and acted upon by all member companies. We are also releasing our first GIFCT Transparency Report and a new counterspeech campaign toolkit that will help activists and civil society organizations challenge the voices of extremism online.

And as we head into our third year as GIFCT, we are pleased to welcome Pinterest and Dropbox as members. We will continue to add new members, particularly smaller companies that could benefit from the collective experience of GIFCT members.

More than 200,000 unique hashes now in our joint database
When terrorists misuse the internet, they often upload the same piece of content to multiple platforms to maximize their reach. To disrupt this behavior, we jointly developed a shared industry database of “hashes” — or digital fingerprints — that allows us to safely share known terrorist images and video propaganda with partner companies. This enables us to more quickly identify and take action against potential terrorist content on our respective platforms.

The shared database predates the creation of GIFCT, but over the last couple years, we have significantly increased the volume of hashes within the database. In 2018, for example, we set and achieved our goal of reaching 100,000 unique hashes. And in the first six months of this year, we’ve already doubled that number, and we now have more than 200,000 unique hashes in the database. 

As we take steps to deliver on the four collaborative actions set forth in the Christchurch Call to Action, we’re expanding the shared industry database so that it extends beyond photos and videos to include URLs that lead to known terrorist and violent extremist content online.

First GIFCT Transparency Report
We have heard loud and clear from government and civil society that we need to be more transparent about what we are working on as an industry. As a result, today we are releasing our first-ever GIFCT Transparency Report. The report goes into detail about the GIFCT’s primary work streams, providing greater insight into how the Hash Sharing Consortium has defined terrorist content, and the volume and types of content included in the database. The full transparency report, which is available here, will complement the transparency reports put out by individual GIFCT member companies.

A toolkit to counter violent extremism
When we committed to the Christchurch Call to Action and issued a nine-point plan outlining concrete steps we plan to take as an industry, we said, “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.” Never has that commitment been more important. As industry partners, we continue to prioritize and deepen engagement with governments, civil society and smaller tech companies around the world.

In partnership with Tech Against Terrorism, we’ve held 11 workshops in nine countries on four continents. We’ve met with 120 different tech and innovation platforms; and we have provided funding to secure Jihadology.net to make sure that researchers studying terrorism can still access primary research material while ensuring that terrorists and people vulnerable to recruitment cannot.

Today, we are also rolling out a cross-platform counter-violent extremist toolkit that we jointly developed with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The toolkit will assist civil society organizations in developing online campaigns to challenge extremist ideologies, while prioritizing their safety. We know that the technology industry isn’t the best or most appropriate messengers when it comes to pushing back on violent extremists, which is why it’s so important to support civil society organizations that have the credibility and knowledge to combat to respond and counter the promotion of violent extremism online.

Enabling and empowering companies to respond to crises like Christchurch
Perhaps most importantly, today we are adding a fourth pillar to the GIFCT’s core mission: enabling and empowering companies to respond to crises like Christchurch. The horrific terrorist attack highlighted the importance of close communication between members, and between government and the wider industry, which is why we are introducing joint content incident protocols to enable and empower companies to more quickly and effectively respond to emerging and active events.

The protocol, which can be triggered by a real-world event involving murder or attempted murder of defenseless civilians or innocents, outlines steps that tech companies can take to respond quickly to an attack. Based on the joint protocols, we will work together to categorize the type of incident and the anticipated level and degree of online impact. We will also set up formal channels of communication so we can share intelligence and content with non-GIFCT companies and other stakeholders, as needed.

Terrorism and violent extremism are complex problems that require a joint response from industry, governments and wider society. We believe that by working together, sharing the best technological and operational elements of our individual efforts, we can have a significantly greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online than we can alone.

We are grateful for the support of and collaboration with governments, international organizations and NGOs around the world, including the EU Internet Forum and the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate. We look forward to sharing more updates in the coming months.

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