A few days ago, news circulated across the internet about a 32 year-old French male national (name withheld), who was sentenced to two years in prison for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites. Even though there was no indication that he plans to stage a terrorist attack, he was convicted by a court in the department of Ardèche on Tuesday.
Sadly, the incident in France is not a case in isolation. The use of the internet for terrorist purposes is a rapidly growing phenomenon, requiring a proactive and coordinated combative response.
In 2012, a document was compiled by the United Nations on the use of the internet for terrorist intents. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon says, “The internet is a prime example of how terrorists can behave in a truly transnational way; in response, States need to think and function in an equally transnational manner.”
Therefore, in a spirited effort to curb the spread of terrorist content online, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are coming together to ensure that their platform does not aid the proliferation of such content in any way whatsoever.
The tech giants are creating a shared industry database of unique digital “fingerprints” for violent terrorist imagery or recruitment videos that they have removed from their services to help identify potential terrorist content on their platforms.
Each company will independently determine what image and video contribute to the shared database. No personally identifiable information will be shared, and matching content will not be automatically removed.
Facebook hopes that "this collaboration will lead to a greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online. Our companies will begin sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services — content most likely to violate all of our respective companies’ content policies. Participating companies can add hashes of terrorist images or videos that are identified on one of our platforms to the database.”
The firms also expect other companies (who want to join the alliance), to use the terrorist database to identify such content on their services, review their respective policies and definitions, and remove matching content as appropriate.