Saturday 19 August 2017

Facebook to beef up attempts to battle terrorism as it faces wave of international criticism

Facebook is facing growing pressure to identify and prevent the spread of content from terrorist groups (AP)
Facebook is facing growing pressure to identify and prevent the spread of content from terrorist groups (AP)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Facebook is to beef up attempts to battle terrorism as it tries to face down a wave of international criticism on the issue. The social media giant's head of global policy, Monika Bickert, told the Irish Independent that the company is to introduce new systems to fight Isil and other terrorist groups online.

Separately, the company is to hire a key new data-protection executive in Dublin in response to tough new European laws that increase fines to €20m or up to 4pc of global turnover.

Facebook's initiative against escalating extremism online comes after British prime minister Theresa May and French president Emmanuel Macron called on tech companies to do more to tackle dangerous and threatening content on the internet.

New measures include image-matching, language analysis and deeper forms of artificial intelligence to weed out threatening activity.

But Ms Bickert, pictured, said that the initiative is part of a longstanding company policy and not the direct result of calls from European leaders.

"We remove this content primarily because it's not okay to have it on our site," she said.

Monika Bickert, Facebook
Monika Bickert, Facebook

"That comes from us and the policies we've had for years. Recent attacks have made people question what we should be doing to stand up against radicalisation but our commitment is longstanding. This is something that we have cared about for a long time."

Under the initiative, new technology will be able to match faces and other imagery with databases featuring previously flagged content.

"When someone tries to upload a terrorist photo or video, our systems look for whether the image matches a known terrorism photo or video," said Ms Bickert.

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"This means that if we previously removed a propaganda video from Isil, we can work to prevent other accounts from uploading the same video to our site. In many cases, this means that terrorist content intended for upload to Facebook simply never reaches the platform."

In a separate development, the company is reacting to next year's EU General Data Protection Regulation law with the imminent appointment of a new "senior" executive to be based in Dublin.

"That's a senior role coming into the team of many hundreds of people on our privacy program," said Stephen Deadman, Facebook's global deputy chief privacy officer.

He added:"It's a key appointment for us."

Facebook recently announced an expansion of its Dublin headquarters.

Mr Deadman was speaking at the Dublin Data Summit, where executives and regulators are meeting to discuss new developments.

Irish Independent

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