Are Social Media Companies Doing Enough to Counter Extremism?

Are Social Media Companies Doing Enough to Counter Extremism?

Some UK MPs recently accused social media giants of “consciously failing” to combat extremists using their platforms as a way of disseminating their values.

According to the Home Affairs Select Committee, firms including Google (which owns YouTube), Twitter and Facebook all need to demonstrate “a greater sense of responsibility” in the war on terror and online recruitment to terrorist groups.

All three companies have maintained that they take their role in this fight very seriously, and Twitter recently revealed that it had taken down over 200,000 extremist accounts in the past few months.

Industry body techUK reported that the MPs description of the tech moguls’ stance against terror was “inaccurate” and failed to reflect the important progress that the companies had made.

According to the HASC, the companies are guilty of “passing the buck” over countering online terrorism.

facebook“Networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the vehicle of choice in spreading propaganda and they have become the recruiting platforms for terrorism,” the MPs complained.

“They must accept that the hundreds of millions of revenues generated from billions of people using their products needs to be accompanied by a greater sense of responsibility and ownership for the impact that extremist material on their sites is having,” the committee concluded.

According to committee chairman Keith Vaz, the networks have been “hiding behind” their supranational legal status and should be forced to demonstrate more transparency regarding how much material they remove and how quickly they’re able to do it.

“They are very powerful organizations making a lot of money and therefore they should devote more of their resources and time, and more people, to solving this problem,” Vaz told one major media outlet. “When they see a preacher of hate espousing radicalization they should take down the video- and that’s what we need to see happen.”

Once Scotland Yard unit working in tandem with social media companies has apparently overseen the removal of over 1,000 instances of extremist or illegal material every week.

When radical cleric Anjem Choudary was brought to trial for inviting support of the Islamic State, evidence was brought forward showing that when police requested that social media platforms remove Choudary’s content or accounts, these requests were ignored on several instances.

While the UK has condemned Twitter, the US State Department and France’s interior minister have both congratulated the company for its increased efforts countering terrorism, which has resulted in the closing of 360,000 extremist accounts since last summer.

waohOne UK official, the director of policy for Facebook UK, told a major media outlet that Facebook had actually provided extensive evidence regarding the rapid development of its counter-extremism strategy.

“Terrorists and the support of terrorist activity are not allowed on Facebook and we deal swiftly and robustly with reports of terrorism-related content,” said Simon Milner. “In the rare instances that we identify accounts or material as terrorist, we’ll also look for and remove relevant associated accounts and content.”

According to a spokesman for Youtube, “We take our role in combating the spread of extremist material very seriously. We remove content that incites violence, terminate accounts run by terrorist organizations, and respond to legal requests to remove content that breaks UK law… We’ll continue to work with government and law enforcement authorities to explore what more can be done to tackle radicalization.”

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