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EXCLUSIVE-Facebook and Microsoft add far-right militias to counterterrorism database

By Elizabeth Culliford

Jul 26 (.) – A counterterrorism organization made up of some of America’s biggest tech companies, such as Facebook and Microsoft, is significantly expanding the list of extremist content shared between companies in a key database, with the aim of taking measures against material from white supremacists and far-right militias, the group told ..

Until now, the database of the Global Internet Forum to Fight Terrorism (GIFCT) focused on videos and images of terrorist groups included in a United Nations list, so it was mainly composed of by contents of Islamic extremist organizations such as the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the coming months, the group will add manifestos by armed assailants – often shared by supporters following acts of violence related to white supremacy – and other posts and links targeted by the UN’s Tech Against Terrorism initiative. It will use the lists from the intelligence-sharing group Five Eyes, adding URLs and PDFs from more groups, such as the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and the neo-Nazis.

The companies, including Twitter and YouTube, of the Alphabet Inc group, share “hashes”, unique numerical representations of original content that have been removed from their platforms. Others use them to identify the same content on their own sites in order to review or remove it.

Although the project helps combat extremist content on major platforms, groups may continue to post violent images and rhetoric on many other sites and parts of the internet.

The tech group wants to combat a broader range of threats, GIFCT CEO Nicholas Rasmussen told . in an interview.

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Tech platforms have long been criticized for failing to monitor violent extremist content, although they also face censorship issues. The issue of national extremism, including white supremacy and militia groups, took on renewed urgency following the deadly January 6 riots on the US Capitol.

The GIFCT, which is now an independent organization, was created in 2017 under pressure from the governments of the United States and Europe after a series of deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels. Its database contains mostly video and image fingerprints related to groups on the UN Security Council’s consolidated list of sanctions and some specific attacks broadcast live, such as the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch ( New Zealand).

The GIFCT has faced criticism and complaints from some digital and human rights groups over the censorship.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Lisa Shumaker, translated by José Muñoz)

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