A counterterrorism organization created by tech giants, including Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft, is expanding its monitoring and data collection of “extremist content” to include “white supremacists and far-right militias” flagged by the United Nations, according to a Reuters exclusive report on Monday.
The organization, Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), has primarily focused on collecting content involving Islamist extremist organizations like Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban, but over the next several months it will add publications and links flagged by the United Nations effort Tech Against Terrorism, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and neo-Nazis.
According to Reuters, the businesses within GIFCT, which also include YouTube, share “hashes,” or unique identifiers of content that have been removed from their platforms or services.
GIFCT’s Executive Director Nicholas Rasmussen said the group is working to increase its scope to cover a wider range of potential extremist threats.
“Anyone looking at the terrorism or extremism landscape has to appreciate that there are other parts…that are demanding attention right now,” Rasmussen said, noting far-right and racially motivated extremism.
Reuter’s reported that fourteen companies currently have access to GIFCT’s database, including Reddit, Snapchat, Instagram, Verizon Media, LinkedIn and Dropbox.
The organization was established in 2017 after multiple deadly terrorist attacks rocked Paris and Brussels. Government leaders from the United States and Europe pressured the tech groups to form GIFCT, and its database mainly contains digital records of videos and images linked to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions list, as well as a number of live-streamed attacks, including the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shootings in 2019.
Rasmussen acknowledged the thin line the organization walks with regards to human and digital rights, particularly where censorship is concerned.
“Over-achievement in this takes you in the direction of violating someone’s rights on the internet to engage in free expression,” said Rasmussen.
Despite these concerns, the group plans to grow its membership and continue expanding its database. Its most recent members include Airbnb and the email marketing firm Mailchimp.
In June, President Joe Biden called white supremacy “the most lethal threat” to the United States’ homeland security during a speech marking the 100th anniversary of the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, Okla.
“According to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today,” Biden claimed. “Not ISIS. Not Al Qaeda. White supremacists.”
“What happened in Greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism, with a through-line that exists today,” Mr. Biden said. “Just close your eyes and remember what you saw in Charlottesville four years ago on television.”