Tech giants face major penalties unless terrorist content is removed quickly

20 Sep 2017

Image: Djordje Novakov/Shutterstock

European political leaders set to warn tech CEOs of the repercussions of not tackling terrorist content in a swift manner.

The discussions around the internet as a hotbed of terrorist radicalisation have been ongoing for years, but today (20 September) European political leaders will issue a stark warning to the world’s biggest tech companies that they will face major fines unless terrorist content is quickly taken down.

UK prime minister Theresa May will use her keynote speech to the UN General Assembly to speak of her experience visiting victims of terrorism following attacks earlier this year in London and Manchester, according to Politico.

Stemming the tide of terrorist content

She will warn of terrorist groups adapting swiftly to technological advances. “Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead.

“Industry needs to go further and faster in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online, and developing technological solutions which prevent it being uploaded in the first place.”

This announcement follows the news that Twitter has taken steps to remove close to 300,000 accounts between January and June of this year, with Facebook discussing AI-powered terrorist material detection tools.

Bloomberg reported that May, French president Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni will attend the meeting with Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft and Google executives today.

Companies are set to incur heavy fines if it is found that terrorist content has remained online for more than two hours.

Difficulty of policing

Organisations such as ISIS have developed sophisticated ways to upload content that is difficult to detect, but it is incumbent on tech behemoths to use tools and strategies to stem the tide of extremist content available online.

In a blogpost from December 2016, YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook said they would take action against such content, while also keeping free expression in mind.

This is particularly difficult to police as these global companies are dealing with different territorial definitions of hate speech and free speech.

They added: “We also seek to engage with the wider community of interested stakeholders in a transparent, thoughtful and responsible way as we further our shared objective to prevent the spread of terrorist content online while respecting human rights.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects