ICYMI: Online Extremism Is Still A Problem For Big Tech

(New York, N.Y.) — Writing for the EU Reporter, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen last week criticized Big Tech for failing to take responsibility for the spread of extremist content on their platforms by deflecting blame onto smaller sites:

“In this new legislative climate, social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, who for years have been complacent, if not deliberately negligent, in policing their platforms, are finally beginning to come under pressure. Unsurprisingly, their belated efforts to appease governments through self-regulatory initiatives such as Digital Trust and Safety Partnership are already giving way to a search for scapegoats … Lately, Big Tech advocates have begun to promote the idea that extremist and terrorist content online remains an issue solely for smaller social media sites and alternative encrypted platforms. While tackling extremism and terrorism on smaller and alternative sites is certainly worth getting ahead of, the overall narrative here is more than a little convenient for Silicon Valley and flawed in a number of crucial respects.”

Ibsen then stressed the need for lawmakers to regulate Big Tech, as extremists still rely on larger, mainstream platforms to expand their reach and impact:

“Every story of radicalisation starts somewhere and regulating Big Tech is the greatest step we could possibly take to prevent ordinary citizens from being drawn down extremist rabbit holes … And while dangerous and hateful content can flow more freely on unmoderated sites, extremists and terrorists still desire access to large, mainstream platforms. The near ubiquitous nature of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others offer extremists the ability to reach broader audiences—to either terrify or recruit as many people as possible. For instance, Christchurch killer Brenton Tarrant, who took to live streaming his atrocities on Facebook Live, had his attack video re-uploaded more than 1.5 million times.”

Finally, Ibsen urged lawmakers to prioritize regulatory oversight of Big Tech in order to prevent real-world violence from occurring:

“Whether it’s jihadists seeking to ignite a worldwide caliphate or neo-Nazis trying to start a race war, the goal of terrorism today is to capture attention, inspire like-minded extremists, and destabilise societies to the greatest extent possible … To this end, the amplificatory effects of major social media channels simply cannot be underestimated. It is one thing for an extremist to communicate to a small group of ideological cohorts on an obscure encrypted network. It is something entirely different for them to share their propaganda with hundreds of millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube … It would be no exaggeration to say that preventing the latter from happening through effective regulation of Big Tech would help to fundamentally tackle modern terrorism and prevent extremists and terrorists from attaining a mainstream audience.”

To read David Ibsen’s op-ed in the EU Reporter, please click here.

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