- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Four of the biggest technology and social media companies in the U.S. are building a database of terrorism-related photos and videos in an effort to crack down on propaganda and recruitment efforts shared through online platforms.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube announced this week they are collaborating to share the unique digital “fingerprints” associated with terrorist-related images that each company has removed from their services. By sharing the information, they hope to give other social media companies a way to efficiently search for the same data on their own platforms and remove the content as needed.

“There is no place for content that promotes terrorism on our hosted consumer services,” the companies said in a joint statement issued Monday.

No personally identifiable information will be shared through the database and content flagged by one company will not automatically be removed from another without first being reviewed, the companies said. But it will give companies a leg up in identifying violent imagery and propaganda that violates their own standards of use.

The agreement comes as social media companies have faced increased criticism over a failure to adequately address harassment, hate speech, and terrorism-related messages on their platforms.

Earlier this week, the European Commission criticized social media companies for their slow response to messages that promote radicalization or hate speech.

The Financial Times reported that the commission found that just 40 percent of reports of illegal hate speech were reviewed and within 24 hours. About 80 percent of the cases were reviewed within 48 hours, but commissioners were unimpressed.

“If Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft want to convince me and the ministers that the non-legislative approach can work, they will have to act quickly and make a strong effort in the coming months,” Věra Jourová, EU justice commissioner, told the Financial Times. “The last weeks and months have shown that social media companies need to live up to their important role and take up their share of responsibility when it comes to phenomena like online radicalization, illegal hate speech or fake news.”

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