Tech Companies Unveil Battle Plans Against Extremist, Hate Groups

Technology companies are taking on hate groups.

In one drive, Facebook, Microsoft. Twitter, Google, and YouTube are among the tech giants who’ll start sharing content in The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism database in hope of cracking down on material from white supremacists and far-right militias, Reuters reported.

In a separate effort, PayPal and the Anti-Defamation League are joining forces to gather intelligence on how extremist and hate movements use financial platforms for funding, according to the ADL.

The Big Tech group wants to combat a wider range of threats, GIFCT’s executive director Nicholas Rasmussen told Reuters.

Previously, the GIFCT database focused on videos and images from terrorist groups on a United Nations list, mostly gathering content from the Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban. In the coming months, it’ll add “attacker manifestos” and other publications and links flagged by the U.N. initiative Tech Against Terrorism, Reuters reported. It will use lists from intelligence-sharing group Five Eyes, adding URLs and PDFs from more groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and neo-Nazis, the news agency reported.

The tech companies share “hashes,” unique numerical representations of original pieces of content that have been removed from their services. Other platforms use these to identify the same content on their own sites in order to review or remove it, Reuters reported.

Extremist groups can still post violent images and rhetoric on many other sites and parts of the internet, however, Reuters noted.

The tech platforms have long been criticized for failing to police violent extremist content — while they also face criticism over censorship. And GIFCT has also gotten pushback from some human and digital rights groups over censorship, Reuters noted.

Fourteen companies can access the GIFCT database, including Reddit, Snapchat-owner Snap, Facebook-owned Instagram, Verizon Media, Microsoft’s LinkedIn and file-sharing service Dropbox, Reuters reported.

“Over-achievement in this takes you in the direction of violating someone’s rights on the internet to engage in free expression,” Rasmussen told the news agency.

The group wants to continue to broaden its database to include hashes of audio files or certain symbols and grow its membership. It recently added home-rental giant Airbnb and email marketing company Maiclhimp as members, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the PayPal and ADL collaboration will focus on uncovering and disrupting the financial pipelines that support extremist and hate movements.

“By identifying partners across sectors with common goals and complementary resources, we can make an even greater impact than any of us could do on our own,” risk management officer Aaron Karczmer of PayPal said in the  ADL news release.

The initiative has won the support of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.

“I applaud PayPal and the ADL for joining forces to combat hate and extremist movements who seek to utilize financial platforms to bankroll their criminal activities and profit from the spread of racism and bigotry,” Vance said in the news release.

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