For immediate release | Thursday, June 13, 2019

CEP’s Dr. Hany Farid: Tech Companies Need “A Fundamental Change” to Tackle Extremist Content

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With “Pressure Points,” CEP Releases Eighth of Nine-Part Series on Online Extremism

(New York, N.Y.) - The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) today released the eighth of a nine-part video series featuring CEP Senior Adviser Dr. Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In this week’s video, titled "Pressure Points," Dr. Farid calls for a collective effort from academics, NGOs, and the public at large, to ensure tech companies do their part to make the Internet a safer place. Despite the proliferation of extremist content online, the right set of pressure points can result in a fundamental change in the way we think about online platforms and how said platforms operate.

On Sunday, CNBC reported that tech companies are now spending money on lobbying at “record levels.” Google spent $21.7 million in 2018 — “no company in America is pouring more money”— and Facebook wasn’t too far behind, spending $12.6 million. CEP has previously called on tech companies to cease lobbying, as doing so means that they are not taking content moderation seriously and contradicts their past pronouncements on supporting government regulation. Then, CEP Executive Director David Ibsen stated, “The media, lawmakers, and the public must demand transparency from tech and compare what they’re doing in practice to their public posturing.”

As Dr. Farid states in the video, “We need to be much more aggressive in developing technology. If you look at where the vast majority of the technological advances are happening at the technology company, it is not on content moderation …

There has to be a fundamental changing of the way we think about these platforms from the companies themselves. They have to decide this matters. But I don’t think they’ve fundamentally decided that we have to do better … If they just can’t decide for themselves we should do better, well then we should decide for them. This is our role as not-for-profits, this is our role as academics, is to shine a light, is to put pressure and to try to make the internet a better place than what it is today.”

Please find a transcript for "Pressure Points” below:

“We need to be much more aggressive in developing technology. If you look at where the vast majority of the technological advances are happening at the technology company, it is not on content moderation. Developing technology to moderate content is not a money-making adventure. It’s a way of dealing with the pressure from the public, but it is not where the core emphasis is. There has to be a fundamental changing of the way we think about these platforms from the companies themselves. They have to decide this matters. But I don’t think they’ve fundamentally decided that we have to do better. And I think that’s where we need to get them to go.

“We in the public have pressure we can apply. There’s capitalism. New platforms can come up that do better. There can be threats of legislation. There’s economic pressure. The advertisers that are fueling YouTube, Facebook and Twitter can say ‘Guys, we’re going to stop advertising until you get your act together.’ If they just can’t decide for themselves we should do better, well then we should decide for them. This is our role as not-for-profits, this is our role as academics, is to shine a light, is to put pressure and to try to make the Internet a better place than what it is today.”

Please find additional videos from the series below:

April 24: Intro

May 1: Internet

May 9: eGLYPH

May 16: Misuse

May 23: Fake News

May 30: Advertising

June 6: Products & Consumers

June 13: Pressure Points