Tech Against Terrorism tackles terrorist exploitation of the internet

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At an unusual session on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September, leaders of one powerful government after another told the leaders of some of the most powerful internet companies to intensify their efforts to take down terrorist propaganda. 

With 300 million photos uploaded daily to Facebook, the task of identifying and moderating terrorist related content is a difficult one. At the time, Facebook said it had 150 people, including engineers and language specialists, “working primarily to counter terrorism.” Twitter reported that it had taken down more than 935,000 accounts in the last two years. And both companies, along with Microsoft and Google, came together earlier this year to establish the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), where representatives from the tech industry, government and non-governmental organizations come together to work on technological solutions to help thwart terrorists’ use of their online services.

This week at UN Headquarters, another tool in the fight against terrorism was made available to tech companies. The new Knowledge Sharing Platform (KSP) is a centralized portal to help companies prevent their platforms being exploited by terrorists. Launched by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, the KSP was created through consultations with the tech industry, as well as civil society. The new platform includes risk assessment tools, sanctions lists, and recommendations on Terms of Service, content regulation, and transparency reporting.

Speakers at the launch, which included speakers from larger tech companies Facebook, Telefonica, and Weibo, as well as a representative from the EU’s Directorate-General for Home Affairs, and member states. Participants noted the importance of public-private partnerships in battling the terrorist exploitation of technology, highlighting that comprehensive solutions that respect freedom of speech are needed to fight it. The UN CTED and the GIFCT representatives pointed out that there are alternative ways to counter terrorism that do not only include content removal, with the latter ensuring their commitment to support knowledge sharing, technological solutions, and counter-narrative messaging.

The EU’s Directorate-General for Home Affairs, noted that private partnerships are vital to prevent terrorist exploitation of technology and that the EU fully supported the new platform

The platform was also presented this week to start-ups in Brussels as part of the UN-backed Tech Against Terrorism project’s final workshop of 2017. The aim of the workshop was to reach out to the tech start up community in Belgium to discuss responses to the terrorist use of online platforms and services. Particular interest was given to start-ups providing social media, communications, data storage, fintech or block chain services – as these are the areas that can provide propaganda and operational applicability for terrorist groups.


Additional information and links:

Tech Against Terrorism is a global campaign designed to help fight the terrorist exploitation of technology. Together with leading tech companies, the focus is on building practical tools to help start-ups develop responses to the exploitation of their services, whilst reinforcing the importance of human rights and protecting fundamental freedoms.

Tech Against Terrorism is being implemented by the ICT4Peace Foundation for the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED), pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 2354 (2017) and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee.