Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies announced Monday that they’re revamping an organization they established to fight online extremism in order to allow it to work more extensively with outside parties.
The announcement, which came on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, comes six months after the suspect in the New Zealand mosque shooting streamed the massacre live on Facebook. At least three atrocities in 2019 have involved suspects posting hate-filled messages on online forums in advance of an attack, including August’s shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
“We’re trying to create a civil defense style mechanism. In the same way we respond to emergencies like fires and floods we need to be prepared and ready to respond to a crisis like the one we experienced,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said at an event in New York. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, spoke alongside Arden.
Facebook was roundly criticized in March when it failed to take action on the live video of the Christchurch shooting until after it was alerted to the video by police.
While Facebook later engaged in a substantial effort to curb the spread of video of the attack on Facebook and Instagram — the video can still be shared freely on WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service it acquired in 2014. By design, content on WhatsApp can not be monitored and moderated like it can be on Facebook.
Asked what Facebook could do about the spread of footage like that from the New Zealand attack on WhatsApp, Sandberg said it had used information from Facebook and Instagram to take action against some WhatsApp users.
The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) was setup in 2017 by Facebook (FB), Microsoft (MSFT), Twitter (TWTR) and YouTube, as a way for the companies to share information about violent terrorist content in order to remove it across platforms.
On Monday, GIFCT said it would become “an independent organization led by an executive director and supported by dedicated technology, counterterrorism and operations teams.” The organization will be funded by the major technology companies.
The move, GIFCT said, will “deepen industry collaboration with experts, partners and government stakeholders – all in an effort to thwart increasingly sophisticated efforts by terrorists and violent extremists to abuse digital platforms.”