For immediate release | Friday, June 17, 2016

Counter Extremism Project Unveils Technology to Combat Online Extremism

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New algorithm will quickly and accurately identify extremist content on Internet and social media platforms, including images, videos, and audio clips

(New York, NY) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) announced today the development of a technological solution that will allow Internet and social media companies to quickly remove extremist content from their platforms, coming on the heels of President Obama's remarks Tuesday that online extremist propaganda is pervasive and easily accessible. The application of this new technology will greatly reduce the ability of extremists and terrorists to weaponize online platforms to radicalize, recruit, and incite to violence.

“If we seize this opportunity and have partners across the social media spectrum willing to fight the extremist threat by deploying this technology, extremists will find Internet and social media platforms far less available for their recruiting, fundraising, propagandizing, and calls to violence,” said CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid. “It is no longer a matter of not having the technological ability to fight online extremism, it is a matter of the industry and private sector partners having the will to take action.”

“President Obama is correct, ISIS videos and postings on the Internet are much too pervasive and accessible. We have known this for a long time, and despite the good intentions of social media companies, the problem has only gotten worse,” said CEP CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace. “We believe we now have the tool to reverse this trend, which will significantly impact efforts to prevent radicalization and incitement to violence. The technology now exists to quickly and efficiently remove the most horrific examples of extremist content. We hope everyone will embrace its potential.”

Dr. Farid, a Professor and Chair of Dartmouth College's Computer Science Department, worked previously with Microsoft to develop photoDNA, a robust hashing software to combat child exploitation online. PhotoDNA can eliminate the redistribution of known child pornography by extracting a distinct digital signature from an image and comparing this signature against all images encountered online.

CEP developed new robust hashing technology to encompass video and audio, making it particularly impactful in combatting the widespread proliferation of extremist propaganda.

To operationalize this new technology to combat extremism, CEP proposes a National Office for Reporting Extremism (NORex), which will house a comprehensive database of extremist content. The new tool will be able to immediately identify this content online and flag it for removal for any technology company utilizing the hashing algorithm.

Tech companies try to take down heinous content that violates their terms of service, but the process is manual and reactive, which hampers speed and effectiveness. CEP’s new technology will streamline and accelerate the process.

Since launching in 2014, CEP has led a rigorous research and crowdsourcing online campaign, called #CEPDigitalDisruption, which is designed to identify, expose, and report extremist content on social media platforms. The development and application of this new technology is the logical next phase of CEP’s existing work to combat extremists’ online presence.