Big Tech’s anti-terrorism task force adds far-right militias to list of extremist groups it tracks
Ailan Evans, DCNF
The tech industry’s anti-terrorism alliance announced Monday it would begin tracking content from far-right organization in a shared counter-terrorism database used by major tech companies.
The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a non-profit organization founded by Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, will add manifestos, posts and links from far-right militias flagged by U.N. anti-terrorist group Tech Against Terrorism to a shared database, GIFCT told Reuters. The organization will also share content flagged by Five Eyes, a global partnership between intelligence agencies in the U.S. and other countries, Reuters reported.
The database, established in 2017 and shared exclusively by the tech giants, aggregates hashes, or digital signatures, of images, videos and URLs, allowing tech companies to easily remove logged content, according to the GIFCT website. The database was previously focused on content primarily from Islamic terror organizations, according to Reuters.
The database will include hashes of content from the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters, designated terrorist organizations by Five Eyes member Canada but not by the U.N., over their involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Reuters reported.
“Anyone looking at the terrorism or extremism landscape has to appreciate that there are other parts…that are demanding attention right now,” GIFCT executive director Nicholas Rasmussen told Reuters.
Kicking off the @GIFCT_official Annual Summit today including announcements around expansion of the Hash Sharing Database; expanding scope of terrorist & violent extremist hashed content. https://t.co/eQMXZAzy50
— Erin Saltman, PhD (@ErinSaltman) July 26, 2021
GIFCT’s decision to expand the database was an important step in moving away from definitions of terrorism that were biased towards Islamic extremism, the organization’s director of programming Erin Saltman said Monday in an interview with Protocol.
“Government definitions of terrorism in theory are agnostic to any one religion or ideology. It’s about the violence. It’s about the target and the motive,” Saltman said.
Other than hashes of content related to organizations designated as terrorists by the U.N. and Five Eyes, the database contains manifestos authored by perpetrators of individual terrorist attacks, a spokesperson for GIFCT told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The organization also expanded its membership, adding vacation rental company Airbnb and emailing service Mailchimp, according to Reuters.
GIFCT acknowledged concerns over censorship and centralized information curation, attempting to reassure critics.
“We want to really maintain that this is not a cartel,” Saltman told Protocol. “Everyone has their independent policies and practices, some have more human resources than others.”
“Over-achievement in this takes you in the direction of violating someone’s rights on the internet to engage in free expression,” Rasmussen told Reuters.