Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Tech firms including Facebook and Twitter promise clampdown on extremism

Tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter have promised a clampdown on extremism following a meeting with world leaders - but failed to say how or when the measures would be implemented.

Amazon and Microsoft were also among those who agreed on a nine-point plan of action after the meeting in Paris, named the Christchurch Call to Action.

The meeting, hosted by French president Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was in response to the terror attack on mosques in Christchurch in March, in which 51 people were killed in an atrocity livestreamed on Facebook.

In a joint statement, the tech companies said they would each take individual steps to improve their policies on violent content, as well as increase collaboration in order to fight the spread of such content.

But the text did not outline any concrete steps that would be taken by individual firms, nor set any timeframe for putting any new measures in place.

Hours before the meeting today, Facebook announced it would ban users from livestreaming for 30 days if they break the site's rules.
The social network said it was introducing a 'one strike' policy for those who violate its most serious rules - but did not specify exactly what violations would earn a ban or how it will better detect this kind of activity on line.

A Facebook spokeswoman has said today it would not have been possible for the Christchurch shooter to use Live on his account under the new rules - but they did not say what rules he would have violated.

Facebook uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect objectionable material, while at the same time relying on the public to flag up content that violates its standards.

To report live video, a user must know to click on a small set of three gray dots on the right side of the post.

When you click on 'report live video,' you're given a choice of objectionable content types to select from, including violence, bullying and harassment.

You're also told to contact law enforcement in your area if someone is in immediate danger.

Prime Minister Ardern welcomed Facebook's pledge. She said she herself inadvertently saw the Christchurch attacker's video when it played automatically in her Facebook feed.

'There is a lot more work to do, but I am pleased Facebook has taken additional steps today ... and look forward to a long-term collaboration to make social media safer,' she said in a statement.

Ardern played a central role in the Paris meetings, which she called a significant 'starting point' for changes in government and tech industry policy.

Twitter, Google, Microsoft and several other companies took part, along with the leaders of Britain, France, Canada, Ireland, Senegal, Indonesia, Jordan and the European Union.

The CEOs and world leaders were looking to agree on guidelines they will call the 'Christchurch Call,' named after the New Zealand city where the attack on a mosque took place.

In a joint statement, tech firms said: 'The terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March were a horrifying tragedy. And so it is right that 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.

'The Christchurch Call announced today expands on the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), and builds on our other initiatives with government and civil society to prevent the dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content.
Additionally, we are sharing concrete steps we will take that address the abuse of technology to spread terrorist content, including continued investment in technology that improves our capability to detect and remove this content from our services, updates to our individual terms of use, and more transparency for content policies and removals.

'Terrorism and violent extremism are complex societal problems that require an all-of-society response. For our part, the commitments we are making today will further strengthen the partnership that governments, society and the technology industry must have to address this threat.'

The five companies have each agreed to individually update their terms of use to expressly prohibit the distribution of such content, as well as establishing new tools to make it easier for users to report violent content.

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