Lawmaker slams Facebook over failure to remove Chch vid

Former combat platoon leader in Afghanistan Max Rose is now a Congressman chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism. Photo: Getty Images
Former combat platoon leader in Afghanistan Max Rose is now a Congressman chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism. Photo: Getty Images

A key member of Congress in the US - New York Democrat Max Rose - has stepped up his attacks on Facebook and other social media companies for their failure to eradicate copies of the alleged Christchurch shooter's video.

"Earlier this year, as chairman of the House Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, I questioned Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft [which owns LinkedIn] about the resources they're devoting to counterterrorism - because budgets reflect values, and if they're spending more on lobbyists and catering than on combating terrorism, there should be hell to pay," Rose wrote in a guest op-ed for The Hill, published earlier today NZT.

"Unfortunately, the companies did not fully or promptly share this critical information," the combat platoon leader in Afghanistan turned politician wrote.

"The little they did provide months later proved the companies are not doing enough. When Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified before Congress last month, I told them that their anaemic response to the issue of online terror content is insulting.

"They oversell the capabilities of artificial intelligence, they undersell the nature of the challenge, and they obscure the amount of resources they're devoting to fighting online terror content."

New York-based researcher Eric Feinberg has continually found copies of the clip on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram since the mosque massacres were streamed on Facebook Live on March 15 - and this morning located two further copies of raw Christchurch footage (one on Facebook and one on Instagram).

New York-based researcher Eric Feinberg has continually found copies of the clip on Facebook and...
New York-based researcher Eric Feinberg has continually found copies of the clip on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram since the mosque massacres were streamed on Facebook Live on March 15. Photo: Reuters

And while it says it will restrict people who have broken un-named "certain rules" from livestreaming, Facebook has resisted making blanket policy changes - such as Google-owned YouTube's move to restrict mobile livestreaming to people with 1000 followers or more (meaning someone who is banned from the service can't simply create a new account in a couple of minutes).

Congressman Rose says "The Christchurch terrorist exploited the extraordinary power of social media to broadcast his message of violence and hate across the world.

"As he brutally murdered 51 people and wounded 49 more in two mosques in New Zealand, his livestream on Facebook ran uninterrupted-and before it was ultimately pulled down from Facebook, it was quickly posted and shared millions of times across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms.

"This is the new age of terrorism, defined by the rise of extremist communities online and terrorists who carry out real-life violence inspired by virtual content. And every time a successful terrorist attack is broadcasted online, it risks inspiring copycats attempting to unleash similar terror in their own communities."

The Jacinda Ardern-led Christchurch call conference in Paris saw big tech companies agree to collaborate on research to prevent and remove extremist content.

Facebook said it would collaborate with UC Berkeley and Cornell universities on a US7.5m project.

But that's a drop in the bucket for a company that made a $US22.1 billion net profit last year. And to return to Rose's lobbying point, the social network spent a reported US$4.1m on Washington lobbyists in the second quarter).

When grilled by Rose earlier this year, the big tech companies did point to a group that they created in 2017 to pool certain basic counterterrorism data that can be shared, called the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).

"The viral spread of the Christchurch video exposed the real limitations of GIFCT's skeletal consortium-a shoestring operation with no permanent staff, no shared location, and minimal technological and policy collaboration between the companies," Rose says.

"This initial effort, unsurprisingly, has not lived up to its promise. It's time to start thinking about a newer model for more robust self-regulation and industry-wide cooperation to deal with the metastasising threat of terrorist content online."

This week, the big tech companies will be meeting in Silicon Valley to discuss the future of GIFCT.

"Ahead of that much-needed conversation, and after what I have seen in my oversight role in Congress this year, I am urging that GIFCT be transformed," Rose says.

The New York Democrat wants GIFCT to get permanent staff who serve as dedicated points of contact for the companies and law enforcement.

He also wants GIFCT to move its operations into a shared physical location, "as is done in the military and intelligence community, could help companies stay ahead of online terrorist activity."

In other words, he wants Facebook and its peers to transform GIFCT from a PR gimmick into a serious, real-life effort to counter hate content.

"These are the wealthiest companies in the world. There's no reason they can't make serious investments in hiring more counterterrorism staff and build out an infrastructure for timely information sharing among the companies," Rose says.

Comments

A timely reminder of what it is we're countering. Terrorism.

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