Safety Tech 101: Protecting platforms against terrorist exploitation

In the kickoff event of the Safety Tech Innovation Network “101” series, attendees heard from experts from Tech Against Terrorism on how websites and platforms can take simple steps to protect themselves from terrorist content. Scroll down to watch the event recording.

Protecting your platform against terrorist content – what should you do?

Based on previous investigations, Tech Against Terrorism has found that terrorist actors are growing increasingly adept at exploiting emerging technologies and tech platforms to successfully spread propaganda. 

As terrorists get more sophisticated at avoiding online content moderation, tech platforms must expand their knowledge and adapt their practices to combat the challenges posed by terrorist exploitation. However, whilst larger platforms might be able to do this, smaller platforms often struggle due to lack of capacity, capability, and resources. Tech Against Terrorism strives to support smaller platforms in tackling terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of their services, principally through their Mentorship Programme, The Knowledge Sharing Platform, and the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP). 

Technical approaches are a key tool in scaling support mechanisms to the tech sector. Tech Against Terrorism recommend a number of technical approaches that tech platforms can adopt to further protect their platforms from terrorist content:

  • Removal capability: Ensuring the platform has the technical ability to remove content, whilst taking into account human rights considerations and remaining transparent on content moderation policies and decisions.
  • Content alerting: Enabling features to allow users to report content deemed to be violating the platform’s terms of service. Platforms should ensure transparency about how the content alerting process operates.
  • Content classifiers: Automating the detection of likely terrorist content based on prior similar content or inclusion of high-risk attributes such as terrorist logos, terminology and imagery
  • Hash matching: Creating hashes of known harmful files, these hashes can be used to match against new content which is uploaded to the platform. If  a match is found a platform can quickly identify terrorist content being uploaded to their platform. (Hashing is the process of converting a file into a numerical string by a mathematical algorithm, if only the hash of a file is know it’s very difficult to reverse the hash to retrieve the original content)
  • Counter narratives: Implementing positive interventions such as counter-narrative content and off-ramping links.

How Tech Against Terrorism can support you?

Tech Against Terrorism’s approach to combatting terrorist exploitation of tech platforms is centered around their core purpose:

  • Disrupt: Disrupt, tackle and respond to global terrorist use of the internet 
  • Prevent: Upskill, educate, and support companies in taking action on terrorist use of their platforms whilst respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Inform: Contribute to informed policy-making on preventing terrorist use of the internet in line with out research and values 
  • Coordinate: Foster improved dialogue and collaboration between tech platforms, civil society, governments and law enforcement

The organisation can support tech platforms looking to increase their site’s protections against terrorist activity through:

  • Analysis of the internet and outreach: Tech Against Terrorism’s open source intelligence team tracks terrorist activity on online platforms and engages with companies where terrorist acitivity is discovered.
  • Knowledge-sharing and best practice: Earlier this year, Tech Against Terrorism launched its knowledge-sharing platform to provide smaller companies with a collection of interactive tools and resources, designed to support operational and policy-orientated efforts to develop a human rights compliant counter terrorism response. The team also runs a number of best practice workshops and webinars along with a mentorship programme, which supports platforms in combating terrorist use of the internet. 
  • Developing technology to disrupt terrorist use of the internet: In 2020, Tech Against Terrorism launched its Terrorist Content Analytics Platform to track, verify, analyse and alert users to terrorist content across the internet.

If you would like to know more about how Tech Against Terrorism can support you, watch the first event from our Safety Tech 101 series, here:

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