Facebook aims to be 'hostile environment' for terrorists

Facebook says it uses a combination of technology and human review to remove terrorist content from its platform and that if it is aware of an emergency involving imminent harm to someone's safety, it notifies law enforcement.
Facebook says it uses a combination of technology and human review to remove terrorist content from its platform and that if it is aware of an emergency involving imminent harm to someone's safety, it notifies law enforcement.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Facebook said it wanted to make its social media platform a "hostile environment" for terrorists, in a statement issued after attackers killed seven people in London and prompted British Prime Minister Theresa May to demand action from Internet firms.

Three attackers rammed a hired van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby last Saturday in Britain's third major militant attack in recent months.

Mrs May responded to the attack by calling for an overhaul of the strategy used to combat extremism, including a demand for greater international regulation of the Internet, saying big Internet companies were partly responsible for providing extreme ideology the space to develop.

Facebook said on Sunday it condemned the London attacks. "We want Facebook to be a hostile environment for terrorists," Mr Simon Milner, director of policy at Facebook, said in a statement. "Using a combination of technology and human review, we work aggressively to remove terrorist content from our platform as soon as we become aware of it - and if we become aware of an emergency involving imminent harm to someone's safety, we notify law enforcement."

Twitter also said it was working to tackle the spread of militant propaganda on its website.

"Terrorist content has no place on Twitter," Mr Nick Pickles, British head of public policy at Twitter, said in a statement, adding that in the second half of last year, it had suspended nearly 400,000 accounts.

 

Mrs May argued on Sunday for increased government surveillance of cyberspace, already a component of the Conservatives' platform in Britain's upcoming snap election on Thursday. "We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning," she said.

Her party's manifesto has already called for a "regulatory framework in law" to "ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers" abide by standards that prevent "abusive behaviour".

Mrs May's proposal is nothing new. In recent years, variations of cyber surveillance measures have been imposed in nations such as France and Germany. But the attacks have continued.

The problem, security analysts say, is that these surveillance measures are not always effective."The technical stuff is important and essential... but all you are doing there is managing the problem," said Mr Raffaello Pantucci, a counter-terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think-tank.

"And how do you make the problem go away?"

REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline 'Facebook aims to be 'hostile environment' for terrorists'. Print Edition | Subscribe