Anti-Terrorism Initiative by Tech Companies Will Focus More on Far-Right Groups

A cross-platform counterterrorism program will target white supremacist and far-right militia material, flagging content for moderation on Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and several other services. Reuters reported the news this morning in an interview with Nicholas Rasmussen, executive director of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).

GIFCT — launched in 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube — maintains a database of terrorist content that helps affiliates find it for review or removal. That database initially contained material from a United Nations-designated list of sanctioned groups, meaning it focused heavily on Islamist extremist organizations such as the Taliban and Islamic State, with exceptions surrounding specific far-right incidents such as the Christchurch, New York shootings. Zealand in 2019.

As Reuters outlines, GIFCT expands the list with material identified by the UN Tech Against Terrorism initiative and the international collaborative partnership Five Eyes. That means adding content from groups such as neo-Nazi organizations, the Three Percenters militia, and the Proud Boys, who designated as a terrorist entity by Canada in May.

The original GIFCT database contained hashed identifiers for images and video, and a spokesperson said: The edge that GIFCT will add three categories of content in the coming months: PDFs of terrorist or violent extremist attackers, terrorist publications that use specific branding and logos, and URLs often shared on social networks. Platforms that have access to the database — such as Reddit, Snapchat, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Dropbox — will use the database to make moderation decisions according to their own policies.

protocol offers more details about what is being added, and describes the extension as “modest.” In an interview, GIFCT programmer director Erin Saltman says the group is trying to avoid “scope creep” and not all content from loosely organized groups like the Boogaloo Movement or QAnon – although if a member commits a violent extremist attack, material such as a killer manifesto may be banned. “There is a lot of concern about censorship, especially when there are such close ties to politics,” Saltman says.

GIFCT is expanding its list as national governments scrutinize far-right terrorism. The US does not designate domestic terror groups as foreign organizations do, but President Joe Biden’s administration has pushed for a crackdown on homegrown extremism, especially after alleged three percent and Proud Boys members were accused of participating in the January 6 riots in the US capital.

Saltman notes that companies are wary of GIFCT going beyond existing lists of terrorist groups, fearing it would undermine the list’s credibility. “Even at the UN level you could not have an agreed definition of terrorism, although they still have frameworks and designation lists. We see companies being held to the same standard or higher, being asked to go above and beyond what governments can do, which makes companies a little reluctant to be that powerful gatekeeper,” she says. Rasmussen also expressed his wariness against excessive moderation, saying that “excessive performance points you toward violating one’s rights on the Internet to participate in free speech.”