Our weekly review of articles on terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet, counterterrorism, digital rights, and tech policy.

Top stories

  • UN CTED releases updated trends alert on far-right terrorism: UN CTED has provided an update of its April 2020 Trends Alert on global far-right terrorism. The update examines how far-right terrorists and violent extremists have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that several groups have attempted to “co-opt” the pandemic by disseminating “racist” and “accelerationist conspiracy theories” to recruit and radicalise individuals.
  • TikTok releases its second transparency report: TikTok removed 49 million videos for violating its community guidelines between December 2019 and June 2020, 98% of which were removed by TikTok’s systems before being reported by users. TikTok received 500 government requests for removal, user information, and copyright reasons.

Tech Against Terrorism in the media

Tech Against Terrorism was quoted in the Telegraph on the rise of “alt-tech” platforms as a result of mainstream social media platform removing extremist, violent extremist, and terrorist content and actors from their platforms.

“Director at Tech Against Terrorism – a UN supported initiative that works with global tech firms – Adam Hadley said the ‘vast majority’ of activity by terrorists and extremists took place on smaller messaging apps and content storage platforms.                    

‘These smaller platforms may not have the capacity to moderate hate crime and incitement to violence as effectively as they need to,’ he said.                    

‘But most take their responsibilities very seriously, and many seek the support of Tech Against Terrorism to prevent exploitation by bad actors.’                

Mr Hadley said a ‘small proportion’ of apps had been created for ‘narrow political purposes’.                    
‘In my view this potentially creates fertile ground for terrorists and violent extremists to spread harmful content that could lead to radicalisation and violence,’ he said.”

You can read the full article here.    

Tech policy 

  • The EARN IT Act threatens our online freedoms. New amendments don’t fix it: Stanford University’s Riana Pfefferkorn analyses amendments made to the EARN IT Act, a bill introduced in March of this year aimed at preventing the dissemination of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). Pfefferkorn, who criticised the first draft of the bill, argues that even with new amendments, the Act still poses a “serious threat” to freedom of expression online, whilst according to her failing to guarantee child safety. Pfefferkorn sees the flaws as “inherent to this legislation,” thereby concluding that amendments will not be able to fully address the Act’s shortcomings. (Pfefferkorn, CIS Blog, 6 July 2020)

  • Riana was also a guest on the Techdirt podcast this week, discussing the amendments. Listen to the episode here.
  • Comparing platform hate speech policies: Reddit’s inevitable evolution: In this piece, Adriana Stephan provides a comparative assessment of how Reddit fits into the evolving tech company hate speech policy landscape. Reddit introduced new hate speech policies on 30 July, rules that are similar to the growing normative consensus around hate speech in the tech industry. Stephan also highlights how Reddit was, following feedback from users and researchers, quick to update the policy, unveiling amendments as soon as 1 July. Stephan warns that in response to Reddit’s policy changes, some actors might seek out smaller platforms to spread hate, and notes that an absence of a legal standard on hate speech makes it difficult for companies to target it with automated solutions. (Stephan, Stanford Internet Observatory, 08.07.2020)

Far-right violent extremism and terrorism 

  • We can’t combat rightwing terrorism until we define it: In this piece, William Baldet asks with regards to far-right terrorism: “if we can’t define it, how are we expected to prevent it?” Baldet argues that the term “far-right” is used to denote such a wide range of ideologies that the term risks becoming meaningless and therefore harming much needed counterterrorism measures from individuals and groups with “far-right” sympathies. Instead, Baldet suggests distinguishing between (in order of extremity) cultural nationalism, white nationalism, and white supremacism, with the latter historically being most associated with terrorism. However, Baldet warns that distinguishing between the three is not always straightforward, as individuals and groups increasingly “pick and mix” ideological tenets from all three strands. (Baldet, Rantt Media, 8 July 2020)  
  • Confronting the rise of eco-fascism means grappling with complex systems: Alexander Reid Ross and Emmi Bevensee of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right explore the concept of “eco-fascism,” an ideology which both the Christchurch and the El Paso shooter made reference to in their respective manifestos, and its use by fascist groups throughout history. The authors argue that eco-fascism is to some extent an ideology rooted in a worship of simplicity, which means that it – despite employing the language of environmentalism – fails to imagine the complex solutions required to address climate change. Therefore, the authors conclude that with the risk of the ideology increasing in popularity, there should be concerted efforts to avoid “fascist entryism” into the global environmentalist movement. (Reid Ross, Bevensee, CARR, 7 July 2020)