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ISIS and other extremist groups have weaponized social media and other Internet platforms to recruit, incite, and propagandize. Unfortunately, industry reaction to terrorists’ misuse of Internet platforms has often been reactive, inconsistent, and piecemeal. 

For this reason, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has worked to outline and compare Internet and technology companies’ approaches to extremist content as it may appear on social media, messaging applications, websites, blogs, and video-hosting websites, among other platforms. It is CEP’s hope that by comparing standards across industry, companies may be encouraged to not only adopt, but commit to enforce strong and consistent counter-extremism policies, geared to meaningfully disrupt and remove dangerous extremist content.

SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGING APPS SERVICE PROVIDERS VIDEO HOSTING OTHER

Social Media

Extremists have a history of using social media platforms to recruit new members and incite to violence. In late 2014, there were at least 45,000 pro-ISIS accounts on Twitter, according to Brookings Institution. Since then, CEP has continued to observe, track, and report hundreds of ISIS accounts as they continue to recruit new members, spread their propaganda, and call for terrorist attacks.

Company Reference(s) to Extremism, Terrorism, Violence, or Harm in Terms of Service Specific Language on Extremism or Terrorism? Specific Language on Violence or Harm?
Askbook "Also undertakes to each member, not ask-book.com to misuse, in particular: - spread over it is not defamatory, contents false, defamatory, obscene, profane, offensive, sexually oriented, threatening, harassing or racist material..." (Askbook, "Terms of Service," http://ask-book.com/about/terms) NO YES
Disqus "You agree not to post User Content that: (i) may create a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to you, to any other person, or to any animal." (Disqus, "Terms of Service," https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466260-terms-of-service) NO YES
Facebook "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.... You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory." (Facebook, "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities," https://www.facebook.com/terms)

"We don’t allow any organizations or individuals that are engaged in the following to have a presence on Facebook: 
  • Terrorist activity, or
  • Organized violence or criminal activity,
  • Mass or serial murderers, or
  • Organized hate groups.

We also remove content that expresses support for groups that are involved in the violent or criminal behavior mentioned above. Supporting or praising leaders of those same organizations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed."  (Facebook, "Community Standards," https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/encouraging-respectful-behavior/?_rdr#dangerous-organizations)
YES YES
Google+ "Do not use our Services to engage in illegal activities or to promote activities that are dangerous and illegal, such as terrorism, the sale of illegal drugs, or human trafficking..." (Google, "User Content and Conduct Policy," https://www.google.com/intl/en-US/+/policy/content.html) YES YES
Instagram "Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate group.... It's never OK to encourage violence or attack anyone based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disabilities, or diseases.... Serious threats of harm to public and personal safety aren't allowed..." (Instagram, "Community Guidelines," https://help.instagram.com/477434105621119/") YES YES
Tumblr "Don’t encourage violence or hatred. Don’t make violent threats or statements that incite violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism. Especially don’t do so on the basis of things like race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation." (Tumblr, "Community Guidelines," https://www.tumblr.com/policy/en/community) YES YES
Twitter "You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism." (Twitter, "The Twitter Rules," https://support.twitter.com/articles/18311) YES YES
Vkontakte "When using the Site the User is prohibited from ... loading, storing, publishing, disseminating, making available or otherwise using any information which ... contains extremist materials; [or] propagandizes criminal activity or contains advices, instructions or guides for criminal activities." (Vkontakte, "Terms of Service," https://vk.com/terms) YES YES

Messaging Applications

ISIS uses private, encrypted messaging applications to plan attacks and propaganda campaigns, as well as coordinate recruits’ travel to ISIS-held territory without easy detection from law enforcement. Among the attacks allegedly coordinated through Telegram and WhatsApp were the November 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead and 350 wounded. ISIS and other terrorist groups—including al-Qaeda and the Nusra Front (Jabhat Fateh al-Sham)—also use Telegram to propagandize, blasting videos and news updates to large audiences in furtherance of their extremist goals.

Company Reference(s) to Extremism, Terrorism, Violence, or Harm in Terms of Service Specific Language on Extremism or Terrorism? Specific Language on Violence or Harm?
Apple iMessage "You agree not to use the External Services to harass, abuse, stalk, threaten or defame any person or entity... You may not use the Services to ... post objectionable, offensive, unlawful, deceptive or harmful content." (Apple, "Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions," http://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/us/terms.html) NO YES
Telegram "All Telegram chats and group chats are private amongst their participants. We do not process any requests related to them.... While we do block terrorist (e.g. ISIS-related) [public] bots and channels, we will not block anybody who peacefully expresses alternative opinions." (Telegram, "Frequently Asked Questions," https://telegram.org/faq) YES NO
Threema "The User may only use the subject of this Agreement as directed and according to the behaviors permitted by Swiss law. Use for any purpose that is capable of damaging the moral sense of the receiver is explicitly excluded.... The User is obliged to ensure that the selected Threema ID neither damages the trademark rights of any third party, nor is capable of violating public morals." (Threema, "Terms of Service," https://gateway.threema.ch/en/terms-of-service) NO NO
WhatsApp "You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that: (a) violate, misappropriate, or infringe the rights of WhatsApp, our users, or others, including privacy, publicity, intellectual property, or other proprietary rights; (b) are illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, hateful, racially, or ethnically offensive, or instigate or encourage conduct that would be illegal, or otherwise inappropriate, including promoting violent crimes...." (WhatsApp, "Terms of Service," https://www.whatsapp.com/legal/) NO YES

Website Service Providers

In addition to social media and messaging applications, violent extremists also reach audiences through formal websites. Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist and extremist organizations maintain websites accessible to the public. These websites, often published on behalf of internationally sanctioned terrorist groups, are powered by a number of U.S. and European companies, including blog-hosting websites, domain registrars, website servers, and other service providers.

Company Reference(s) to Extremism, Terrorism, Violence, or Harm in Terms of Service Specific Language on Extremism or Terrorism? Specific Language on Violence or Harm?
CloudFlare "Cause for such termination shall include, but not be limited to: ... (g) you have engaged or are reasonably suspected to be engaged in fraudulent or illegal activities.... By visiting CloudFlare.com, you agree that the laws of the United States and, specifically, those of the state of California, without regard to principles of conflict of laws, will govern these Conditions of Use and any dispute of any sort that might arise between you and CloudFlare or its affiliates." (CloudFlare, "CloudFlare Terms of Use," https://www.cloudflare.com/terms) NO NO
eNom (Rightside) "[If] You are alleged to be using the IDP Services for purposes of engaging in ... illegal or morally objectionable activities, including... activities which are designed [to] ... harm, abuse, threaten, or harass ... involve hate crimes [or] terrorism ... or are otherwise objectionable ... THEN ... [the] Backend Service provider has the absolute right and power ... to suspend the IDP Services, close Your Account, [and] terminate provisionment of the IDP Services...." (Rightside, "ID Protection Service Agreement," http://www.enom.com/help/idprotect_agreement.asp) YES YES
GoDaddy "You will not use this Site or the Services in a manner (as determined by GoDaddy in its sole and absolute discretion) that ... Is illegal, or promotes or encourages illegal activity ... Promotes, encourages or engages in terrorism, violence against people, animals, or property...." (GoDaddy, "Universal Terms of Service Agreement," https://www.godaddy.com/agreements/showdoc.aspx?pageid=UTOS&app_hdr=0) YES YES
ICANN "By making Content available, you represent and warrant that ... the Content ... does not contain threats or incite violence." (ICANN, "Terms of Service," https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/tos-2014-06-13-en) NO YES
Online SAS "Violent or pornographic content is strictly prohibited when the content is likely to be accessible to minors...." (Online SAS, "Terms and Conditions," [in French] https://www.online.net/cgv.pdf) NO YES
Public Domain Registry "We exercise no control over, and accept no responsibility for, User Content or the content of any information passing through our computers, network hubs and points of presence or the internet. We do not monitor User Content. However, you acknowledge and agree that we may, but are not obligated to, immediately take any corrective action in our sole discretion, including without limitation removal of all or a portion of the User Content or User Websites, and suspend or terminate any and all Services without refund if you violate the terms of this Agreement." (Public Domain Registry, "Terms of Service," https://publicdomainregistry.com/legal/)

Users may not utilize Public Domain Registry’s services "to solicit the performance of acts or services that are illegal under applicable law ... The Registrant acknowledges and understands that they are prohibited from utilizing domain registration, DNS or any other services obtained from our registrar, to: publicize the personal information or likeness of a person without that person's consent; ... to threaten persons with bodily harm; to make harassing or abusive statements or messages; to solicit the performance of acts or services that are illegal under applicable law." (Dot Serve, parent company of Public Domain Registry, "Legal," https://dotserve.website/legal/)
NO YES
WordPress (Automattic) “In particular, make sure that none of the prohibited items (like spam, viruses, or serious threats of violence) appear on your website…. Automattic has the right (though not the obligation) to, in Automattic’s sole discretion, (i) refuse or remove any content that, in Automattic’s reasonable opinion, violates any Automattic policy or is in any way harmful or objectionable” (WordPress, "Terms of Service," https://en.wordpress.com/tos/) NO yes

Video Hosting

Terrorists use video-hosting services to share lectures, propaganda videos, and excessively violent content (including beheading videos) in an effort to lure potential recruits. CEP has found more than 80 U.S. and European extremists who were in some way radicalized by U.S.-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, many of whom were drawn to jihadism through Awlaki’s video lectures posted online. Indeed, CEP has found that a search for "Anwar al-Awlaki" on YouTube consistently produces tens of thousands of hits, including such violent lectures as "Never Trust a Kuffar [non-believer]" and "Constants on the Path of Jihad." Other wanted terrorists, including Jamaican-born Abdullah Faisal—barred from entering the United Kingdom due to terrorist-linked activities—often make use of video-streaming services like PalTalk to preach to a wider audience. CEP’s revolutionary eGLYPH technology seeks to help companies automatically remove excessively violent content that does not comply with their Terms of Service.

Company Reference(s) to Extremism, Terrorism, Violence, or Harm in Terms of Service Specific Language on Extremism or Terrorism? Specific Language on Violence or Harm?
Google Drive "We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our Program Policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do." (Google Drive, "Google Drive Terms of Service," https://www.google.com/drive/terms-of-service/)

"Speak your mind without threatening others... in cases where there is a serious and imminent physical threat of injury or death, we may take action on the content....we do not support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. This can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line." (Google, "Abuse program policies and enforcement," https://support.google.com/docs/answer/148505?hl=en)
NO YES
PalTalk "All pictures must follow the below guidelines ... Can't be construed as harassing ... Can't contain excessive violence ... Subscriber shall not use the Services to create or distribute any images, sounds, messages or other materials, which are obscene, harassing, racist, malicious, fraudulent infringing or libelous, nor use the Services for any activity that may be considered or are unethical, immoral, violative of any third party’s rights, or illegal." (PalTalk, "Terms of Service," http://www.paltalk.com/terms) NO YES
Sendvid "Sendvid.com does NOT allow obscene, illegal or objectionable content. Accounts and content that violate this will be removed without warning.... Member assumes all knowledge of applicable law and is responsible for compliance with any such laws. Member may not use the Service in any way that violates applicable state, federal, or international laws, regulations or other government requirements. Member further agrees not to transmit any illegal material that encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any applicable local, state, national, or international law or regulation." (Sendvid, "Terms of Service," http://support.sendvid.com/customer/portal/articles/1743605-terms-of-service) NO NO
YouTube (Google) “It's not okay to post violent or gory content that's primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful…. Our products are platforms for free expression. But we don't support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. This can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line.” (YouTube, “Community Guidelines,” https://www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/communityguidelines.html)

“YouTube strictly prohibits content intended to recruit for terrorist organizations, incite violence, celebrate terrorist attacks or otherwise promote acts of terrorism. We also do not permit foreign terrorist organizations to use YouTube.” (YouTube, “Violent or graphic content,” https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802008)
yes YES

Other

Extremist and terrorist operatives make use of a number of different websites and platforms, both software and hardware, in order to further their messages of hate and lure recruits to carry out acts of terror.

Company Reference(s) to Extremism, Terrorism, Violence, or Harm in Terms of Service Specific Language on Extremism or Terrorism? Specific Language on Violence or Harm?
Apple iCloud "You agree that you will NOT use the Service to: ... stalk, harass, threaten or harm another; ... plan or engage in any illegal activity...." (Apple, "iCloud Terms and Conditions" http://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/icloud/en/terms.html) NO YES
Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod) "You further agree not to use the Services in any manner to harass, abuse, stalk, threaten, defame or otherwise infringe or violate the rights of any other party...." (Apple, "Apple Inc. iOS Software License Agreement," http://images.apple.com/legal/sla/docs/iOS10.pdf) NO YES
Google "This content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do." (Google, "Google Terms of Service," https://www.google.com/policies/terms/) NO No
JustPaste.It "You agree that you will not post or upload any Content which contains material which it is unlawful for you to possess in the country in which you are resident, or which it would be unlawful for JustPaste.it to use or possess in connection with the provision of the Service." (JustPate.It, "Terms of Service," https://justpaste.it/jpregulations) NO NO
Microsoft "Don’t engage in activity that is harmful to you, the Services, or others (e.g. transmitting viruses, stalking posting terrorist content, communicating hate speech, or advocating violence against others)." (Microsoft, "Microsoft Services Agreement," https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/servicesagreement/) YES YES

Conclusion

As ISIS and other extremist groups continue to misuse online platforms to recruit and coordinate attacks, it is clear that the degree to which companies enforce their stated Terms of Service is a vital public safety concern. Allowing the establishment of terrorist bases of operation on social media platforms and other public-facing websites, the coordination of attacks through encrypted messaging applications, and the proliferation of terrorist content on video-hosting websites has directly led to many deaths around the world and constant and easy marketing of extremist ideologies to the public.

Due to these vast public safety concerns, it is often up to the public—in our various capacities as citizens, customers, and investors—to hold Internet and technology companies to high standards regarding their policies and practices to counter extremism. As ISIS and other groups utilize tech platforms to further their extremist agendas, we must work to ensure that companies adopt and implement policies to eliminate extremist content on their platforms commensurate with the scope of the danger.