A self-proclaimed counter terrorism organization with a membership comprised of the world’s biggest tech oligarchs has announced plans to expand content sharing among its ranks in a bid to crack down on “white supremacy” and “far-right militias” the same day as PayPal announced a similar finance-based endeavor with a left-wing group.
The divulgement came in a July 26 article by Reuters, which stated the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) would start to “add attacker manifestos – often shared by sympathizers after white supremacist violence – and other publications and links flagged by U.N. initiative Tech Against Terrorism” to a database shared between several of the world’s largest internet companies over the course of the next several months.
Previously, GIFCT’s database, “Focused on videos and images from terrorist groups on a United Nations list and so has largely consisted of content from Islamist extremist organizations such as Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
According to GIFCT’s website, the project was founded in 2017 by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft. Reuters says it was created “Under pressure from U.S. and European governments after a series of deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels.”
The Forum’s claim to fame is a database of flagged content, stripped of personally identifying information and assigned an algorithmic “hash” that member companies can use to program their own artificial intelligence oversight to automatically detect when posted on their platforms.
Reuters says the expanded reach of the Forum will assimilate data from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, composed of the national intelligence agencies of the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and will specifically target the Proud Boys, Three Precenters, and “neo Nazis.”
The Forum’s 2021 Transparency Report listing of its full 17 members reads like a who’s who of Silicon Valley:
Other large tech companies such as Snap, Reddit, Ask.fm, Cloudinary, and Verizon also have access to the Forum’s database, which is composed of 270,000 images and 51,000 videos, according to the Transparency Report.
The Report says database content is tagged as 77.2 percent glorification of terrorist acts and 14.3 percent graphic violence against defenseless people.
Originally, content added to the database was limited to organizations on the UN Security Council’s Consolidated Sanctions List. However, exceptions were made for the 2019 Christchurch New Zealand mosque shootings and similar attacks in Halle, Germany and Glendale, Arizona in 2019 and 2020.
GIFCT Executive Director Nicholas Rasmussen said of the changes, “Anyone looking at the terrorism or extremism landscape has to appreciate that there are other parts…that are demanding attention right now.”
Reuters said Rasmussen’s comments cited “far-right or racially motivated violent extremism,” while the outlet itself cited the hot-button Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
While at their face value, both the changes and the motives may sound innocuous enough, on June 22, GIFCT’s academic research arm, the Global Network on Extremism and Technology, published a coronavirus-specific article on its website titled Extremism Unmasked, which posited “violent extremist organizations” (VEO) have been taking advantage of citizen unrest resulting from extended pandemic lockdowns.
“This should not be surprising in some ways, though COVID-19 as a crisis was able to bring the best out of many people, the same crisis was also able to bring out the worst in others,” says the article.
“COVID-19 health restrictions were seen as evidence of a deep state (or big government) conspiracy encroaching on individual freedoms, capitalising on chaos, panic, and fear to push conspiracies into the mainstream.”
Author Marc-Andre Argentino continued, “Whilst such narratives placed blame on different actors and incited varying levels of violence, many share a common anti-government conspiratorial framework. These cognitive and psychological phenomena are on display as various COVID-19 related grievances bring people together.”
“VEOs have been maliciously using social media to create and amplify disinformation on a large-scale, by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in our social media ecosystem and by manipulating people through conspiracy theories.”
The same day, Reuters also reported one of the world’s largest payment processors, PayPal, would partner with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to “Investigate how extremist and hate movements in the United States take advantage of financial platforms to fund their criminal activities.”
ADL’s Center for Extremism would lead the charge in, according to the report, “Uncovering and disrupting the financial flows supporting white supremacist and anti-government organization.”
Furthermore, PayPal told the outlet that data gathered would be shared with “Other firms in the financial industry, law enforcement and policymakers.”
Liberal journalist Glenn Greenwald sounded the alarm about the partnership on Twitter, “The @ADL is highly politicized group: completely liberal and aligned with the DNC, just a tad more pro-Israel in their focus but otherwise no differences. This is yet another union between establishment liberalism and Big Tech to control and censor the internet.”
“They pretend groups like ADL or SPLC are objective, neutral, apolitical arbiters of what constitutes ‘hate speech’ and ‘extremism’ when the reality is the opposite: these groups routinely spout extremism and hate speech. This is political censorship disguised as a noble crusade.”