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Tech giants develop new way to track and remove terrorist content online

Some of the world's biggest online content platforms have agreed to mark material that promotes terrorism with a special digital tag to help one another identify and remove the content from their own services.06 Dec 2016

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube said they would work together to create a "shared industry database of 'hashes'" for terrorist content that they have removed from their respective services. By giving the content "unique digital 'fingerprints'" that each of the platforms can access details of, it is hoped that the content will be easier to identity and remove, the companies said.

"By sharing this information with each other, we may use the shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on our respective hosted consumer platforms," the content platforms said in a joint statement. "We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online."

"Our companies will begin sharing hashes of the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos we have removed from our services — content most likely to violate all of our respective companies’ content policies. Participating companies can add hashes of terrorist images or videos that are identified on one of our platforms to the database," they said,

The platforms said that participating companies will not remove content notified to them automatically. Rather, they will use the hashes in the database to identify the content in question on their own services, review it against their own policies and definitions, and remove offending content as appropriate. They said that they hope to extend the initiative "to involve additional companies in the future".

The platforms said: "There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services. When alerted, we take swift action against this kind of content in accordance with our respective policies."