Four major tech companies have launched a joint effort to combat terrorism online

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube have formed a new group to combat terrorist and violent extremist content on their platforms.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism further cements the companies' counter-terrorism collaborations and aims to work closely with others in the effort.

"We believe that by working together, sharing the best technological and operational elements of our individual efforts, we can have a greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online," reads a shared blog post announcing the group's formation.

Building on work by the EU Internet Forum and Shared Industry Hash Database as well as talks with the UK government and initiatives stemming from this year's G7 and European Council meetings, the forum strengthens collaboration between its members and will explore areas where they can work together in the future.

The group will also partner with smaller tech companies to develop technologies and procedures they can use to combat terrorism, as well as work with civil society groups, academics, governments and international bodies such as the European Union and United Nations. 

New partnership, new tools

While the Global Forum to Combat Terrorism is new, these four companies have in the past partnered to combat terrorism online. For example, in December 2016 they announced the Shared Industry Hash Database in order to identify violent terrorist imagery and terrorist recruitment videos and images. 

As part of that initiative, after terrorist posts are removed from a company's platform, the post's unique online fingerprint is put into the database so other companies can more efficiently identify potential terrorist content.

The Global Internet Forum to Combat Terrorism will focus on a few key areas to start. The first is technological solutions, including improving existing tools, sharing best practices as new machine learning-based techniques come to the fore, and developing standard transparency reporting methods for terrorist content when it's removed from the companies' services.

Next is research, with the group planning to commission research that informs and guides their counter-speech efforts and future methods and policies for taking down terrorist content.

Knowledge-sharing is the third prong of the forum's initial efforts, and the group with collaborate with terrorism experts and a broad set of stakeholders to learn about terrorism and share information with one another.

The forum is the latest in a series of initiatives undertaken by several tech companies to identify, remove and report terrorist content on their platforms. 

Just over a week ago Facebook outlined what it's doing to counter terrorism, including using artificial intelligence to identify possible terrorist posts and employing workers to review content that's reported by other users. 

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism plans to share more on its initiatives 'in due course'.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.