Kent Walker, the general counsel of Google, is expected to tell European leaders that the removal of extremist content online just a few hours after it has appeared will pose a huge scientific and technological challenge. This came after reports emerged that the leaders of Italy, France and Britain were expected to push technology firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to take down extremist online content within a period of one or two hours after its appearance.
As world leaders gather in New York under the auspices of a United Nations summit, Walker is expected to make a presentation of behalf of American tech firms such as Twitter, Microsoft and Facebook. Walker is however expected to reveal that the tech companies were seeing some progress in their efforts to get rid of extremist content.
“We are making significant progress, but removing all of this content within a few hours – or indeed stopping it from appearing on the internet in the first place – poses an enormous technological and scientific challenge,” Walker is expected to say.
According to Walker finding extremist content takes up many human hours even with advances in computer technology due to the vastness of the internet. Additionally purveyors of extremist content are constantly finding new ways to escape detection.
In Walker’s view, human reviewers are needed in order to help make a distinction between such content as news from problematic material. It will also be necessary to use machine learning as examples of extremist content are constantly evolving.
Last year tech firms agreed to form a joint database which would be used in sharing unique digital fingerprints, known as ‘hashes’, which could then be automatically assigned to photos or videos of extremist content with a view to assisting in the detection and removal of such content. In one example social media giant Facebook made use of a hash on content that was linked to instructions on bomb-making and close to 100 copies of the particular content was removed.
After a series of terrorist attacks and threats in Europe, the European Union has contemplated legislation that would be punishing to tech firms in the event that they do not do more to get rid of extremist content. Some of the tech firms are responding with more aggressiveness in regards to how they handle extremist content. Twitter has for instance revealed that it had removed close to 300,000 accounts accused of promoting terrorism in the first six months of this year.