(New York, N.Y.) — Today, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT)––a group founded by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter––will hold its annual Global Summit to discuss the organization’s efforts in “prevent[ing] terrorist and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms.” Last year, the GIFCT announced that it would expand its hashing database, used and shared among its tech company members to remove known extremist and terrorist content, to also include far-right extremism. The database had previously focused on content from Islamist extremists such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.
The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has consistently called on the GIFCT to fulfill its promises to adopt effective industry standards and policies for responding to extremists’ and terrorists’ misuse of Internet platforms and services. But the GIFCT’s disappointing track record and inability to coordinate content moderation practices across sites puts the public’s safety at risk.
Mostly recently, the GIFCT’s failure to curb extremist content online was exemplified in the mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York grocery store, which was livestreamed on the Amazon-owned platform Twitch. Twitch cut off the video within two minutes of the attack, but the video was captured and shared across multiple other platforms including Facebook and Twitter, among others. The video accumulated more than three million views in a short time, calling into question whether progress had been made by the GIFCT. The attack also drew haunting parallels to the 2015 Christchurch attack—a source of inspiration for the Buffalo shooter—that was similarly livestreamed and subsequently widely proliferated.
“Despite the GIFCT’s pledge to tackle far-right extremism, in the last year, these groups and individuals have continued to maintain a presence online,” said UC Berkeley professor and CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid. “Rather than simply making yet another empty promise at this year’s summit, the GIFCT should instead discuss and analyze specific reasons for why they failed to stop the proliferation of the original radicalizing content and the livestream and subsequent uploads of the Buffalo attack, especially when they had the benefit of hindsight from Christchurch. Moreover, discussions should result in clear-cut, concrete action that ensures industry-wide standards for consistent, effective, and transparent removals of known terrorist and extremist content across all sites and platforms.
CEP Executive Director David Ibsen added, “In the past year alone, CEP has also flagged multiple accounts belonging to convicted ISIS supporter Anjem Choudary who continues to seek new online platforms for his extremist rhetoric; the Houthis and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization; and high ranking members of U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) groups such as the Taliban. The worst of the worst content is still available online. The tech industry can either continue going down the same path it has been for years, or it can step up and provide a solution to the problem they continue to inadequately address.”