Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube have announced that they’re planning to work together and share their expertise to formulate a strategy to counter the spread of terrorist content online.
How exactly are they aiming to do this? Well, the companies have said they’ll create a shared industry database that will enable them to identify violent terrorist imagery or terrorist recruitment videos by assigning them unique identifiers called hashes.
If one of the companies removes extremist content it’ll be assigned a unique hash and logged in this database, making it easier for the other networks to flag it and remove it from their own platforms.
In a joint blog post the companies said “There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on [their] hosted consumer services”, adding that they hope that by collaborating in this way they’ll become more efficient at identifying and removing extremist content.
This isn’t the first time the companies have banded together to help one another flag up harmful content; last year they used a similar method to identify and prevent the spread of child pornography.
When an image or video is identified as containing extremist content it won’t be automatically deleted from the other networks. Each company still has the freedom to make sure the content that’s been flagged up violates its terms of service before deleting it.
The move comes not long after these companies agreed with the European Union to remove content which qualifies as hate speech or propaganda within 24 hours of being notified. This database should certainly make it much easier to act at an appropriate speed, though it doesn't guarantee that all extremist content will be stopped.
The companies also promise, though, that their users’ privacy won’t be compromised, insisting that “no personally identifiable information will be shared”. That doesn’t mean it won’t be stored, however, as there’s also the promise that “each company will continue to apply its practice of transparency and review for any government requests”.
Though the collaboration is only between Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube at the moment, the plan is to expand access to the database and include other companies in the future. Here’s looking at you, Google.