The designation of the Russian Imperial Movement by the US State Department: why it matters for tech companies

On 6 April, the US Department of State proscribed the Russian Imperial Movement as a specially designated global terrorist entity. Tech Against Terrorism welcomes this development and encourages states to use legal powers to promote rule of law through comprehensive terrorist designation lists. Through our work with smaller platforms, we find that designation lists are an important element for ensuring that platforms make good decisions with regard to content moderation.

Due to an uneven international consensus on the definitions of terrorism and terrorist content, tech companies often have to adjudicate on what content should be classified as terrorist on their platforms. Many tech companies refer to existing designation lists as a standard against which to moderate terrorist content on their platforms. However, whilst Islamist terrorist groups are often more frequently designated, there is less clarity around the status of far-right and other violent extremist groups. This inevitably means that it is difficult for tech companies to make content moderation decisions at scale regarding malicious actors and groups.

We therefore welcome the US State Department’s announcement that the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) – an ultranationalist white supremacist group with extensive international links, RIM has notably been involved in rallying Europeans and Americans to its ideology, and in paramilitary trainings – has been listed as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” (SDGT). This designation marks the first time in US history that a far-right violent extremist group is officially listed as an international terrorist organisation, and follows the measures taken by the United Kingdom and Canada, with the UK proscribing neo-Nazi groups National Action (in 2016) and Sonnenkrieg Division (in 2020) as terrorist organisations, and Canada having added neo-Nazi international network Blood and Honour to its listing of designated terrorist entities (in 2019).

We believe that designating terrorist groups in a responsible and accurate manner – whilst respecting human rights and freedom of expression – is an important tool that helps tech companies take appropriate action. RIM’s designation will facilitate tech companies’ ability to adjudicate on whether to take action on such groups’ presence on their platforms under their counterterrorism mechanisms.

If you are a tech company who wants to learn more about terrorist designation lists and have access to some of our resources, please get in touch  at [email protected]