Facebook, Google's YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter said on Monday that they are forming a global forum to help combat the spread of terrorist content on their respective services. Called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, the companies said the partnership would help them make their services "hostile to terrorists and violent extremists."
At a time when internet companies face an ever-growing chorus of calls to reduce the hostility and violent rhetoric that sometimes bombards users online, the four tech giants are teaming up to battle online extremism with each company developing specific "policies and removal practices" to reduce the amount of content posted on their services by extremist groups and individuals.
Participating companies in the forum will share knowledge with each other and the global counter-terrorism community, as well as deploy technologies like machine learning to better detect and remove extremist content. "It will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the [European Union] and the [United Nations]," the companies said in a statement.
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The announcement comes after an uptick in terrorist attacks across the European continent, including multiple recent high-profile incidents in the U.K. Last week, European leaders issued a statement from a summit in Brussels calling on tech companies to increase their efforts in reducing extremist content on social media and to make data available to global law enforcement authorities.
The four forum partners had previously announced plans to collaborate in online anti-terrorism efforts in December. Twitter and Facebook have faced recurring criticism for not doing more to curb online harassment. Twitter, for its part, had blocked a number of accounts associated with members of the alt-right movement. And, Facebook said earlier this month that it wants to be "a hostile environment for terrorists" by removing extremist content and working more closely with law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has looked to crack down on extremist content on its own services, including on the Outlook email service as well as communication tools on the gaming device Xbox Live. Google's YouTube also promised to better police its own video content after several advertisers boycotted the site when their ads appeared next to offensive and extremist videos.