Software helping Facebook better tackle terrorist propaganda

Facebook maintained that the company’s intent is to be neutral on ideology and politics
Sunday 06/05/2018
US Senator Patrick Leahy speaks next to a poster depicting examples of questionable internet ads found online. (AP)
Credible threats. US Senator Patrick Leahy speaks next to a poster depicting examples of questionable internet ads. (AP)

SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook “took action” on 1.9 million pieces of Islamic State- or al-Qaeda-linked content in the first three months of this year — nearly double the amount from the previous quarter, said Facebook Vice-President of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert and global head of counterterrorism policy Brian Fishman.

“Taking action,” the company said in a release, generally involved removing “the vast majority of this content.”

It “added a warning to a small portion that was shared for informational or counter speech purposes,” Bickert and Fishman said in an online post.

In some cases, entire profiles, pages or groups were taken down for violating Facebook policies, making all included content unavailable.

“We’ve made significant strides finding and removing their propaganda quickly and at scale,” Bickert and Fishman said. “We’re under no illusion that the job is done or that the progress we have made is enough.”

Facebook credited detection technology and a counterterrorism team that has grown to 200 people from 150 people in less than a year.

Facebook defined terrorism as “any non-governmental organisation that engages in premeditated acts of violence against persons or property to intimidate a civilian population, government, or international organisation in order to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim.”

Bickert and Fishman maintained that the company’s intent is to be neutral on ideology and politics, meaning the terrorism definition applies equally to everything from religious extremism and violent separatism to white supremacy or militant environmentalism.

“It’s about whether they use violence to pursue those goals,” Bickert and Fishman said.

The median time it took new detection tools to uncover freshly uploaded terror content was less than a minute, the executives said.

“Terrorist groups are always trying to circumvent our systems, so we must constantly improve,” Bickert and Fishman said. “We learn from every misstep, experiment with new detection methods and work to expand what terrorist groups we target.”

Twitter recently said it had suspended more than 1 million accounts for “promotion of terrorism” since 2015. It said its efforts have begun to make the platform “an undesirable place” to call for violence.

In its latest transparency report, Twitter said it suspended 274,460 accounts from July-December 2017 “for violations related to the promotion of terrorism.” The figure is down 8.4% from the previous reporting period and is the second consecutive decline, a Twitter statement said.

Twitter and Facebook have faced pressure to crack down on jihadists and others calling for violent attacks while maintaining open platforms for free speech.

In the latest six-month reporting period, Twitter said 93% of the suspended accounts were “flagged by internal, proprietary tools” and that 74% were cut off before their first tweet.

(Agence France-Presse)

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