Activism

The Purge Is Coming: 'Web Giants To Remove Content Flagged In New Central Database'

The Purge Is Coming: 'Web Giants To Remove Content Flagged In New Central Database'

For many years now there have been mutterings about whether it is possible or even desirable to monitor and restrict content available on the internet. Now it appears as though the debate has concluded as Silicon Valley giants have pledged to strip their social media platforms of material which is deemed to be of an 'extremist' nature.

Social media giants agree to joint censorship database

The current plan is the brainchild of the European Union’s internet forum which has brought together Internet companies, interior ministers from various European countries and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to discuss ways to control the proliferation of extremist content on the web.

In a joint statement, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have confirmed that they have all agreed to a collaborative project that will allow them to quickly remove 'extremist' material. The companies will create a joint database in which they will share ‘hashes’ (unique digital fingerprints automatically assigned to videos and photos) with one another. They will also share details of the extremist text, accounts and websites that they have detected.

This will allow for the other companies to quickly remove the same material if it happens to crop up on their site.

In their statement, the four companies wrote:

Web giants YouTube , Facebook , Twitter and Microsoft will step up efforts to remove extremist content from their websites by creating a common database.

The companies will share ‘hashes’ – unique digital fingerprints they automatically assign to videos or photos – of extremist content they have removed from their websites to enable their peers to identify the same content on their platforms.

“We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online,” the companies said in a statement on Tuesday.

The European Union set up an EU Internet Forum last year bringing together the Internet companies, interior ministers and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator to find ways of removing extremist content.

If this plan is successful, it will mean that users sharing non-wanted content will be forced to less popular areas of the Internet which means that there will be far fewer people to view their material. The hope is that this will drive down 'online radicalisation' which has been strongly associated with the rise of the international terrorist organization, Islamic State.

While the companies and their European Union partners have been keen to emphasize that these measures are simply concerned with tackling terrorism, many alternative media outlets have expressed misgivings about the new plan. It has been suggested that this kind of database could be used to suppress news stories which are deemed to be undesirable by ruling governments, the main stream media and technology/platform providers which could have a seriously detrimental effect on investigative journalism and freedom of speech.

While these platforms offer the opportunity to reach a wide audience, the centrality of ubiquitous platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter is, obviously, that they have the power to delete accounts and drive down audience response by tweaking the algorithm.

They can make you, us invisible in a blink of an eye.

That is the state of free speech in 2016. It can be eradicated at a moment’s notice, and perhaps for reasons you aren’t even aware of.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

We're entering stage 3 now ...

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