Reader’s Digest – 20 August 2021

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


Tech Against Terrorism Updates

  • On Wednesday, 25 August we will be hosting our next webinar in partnership with the GIFCT, on “United Nations’ Efforts in Counterterrorism and CVE: Resolutions, Mandates and Partnerships”. You can register for the event here

    Agenda
    Please note: this is a draft agenda and additional speakers might be added.
    • Mattias Sundholm, Strategic Communications Officer and Counter-Narratives, UNCTED 
    • Nika Saeedi, Team Leader, Prevention of Violent Extremism, UNDP  
    • Akvile Giniotiene, Head of the Cybersecurity and New Technologies Unit, UNCCT 
    • Moderators: Jacob Berntsson, Head of Research and Policy, Tech Against Terrorism; and Nayanka Paquete Perdigão, Programme Associate, GIFCT 
       
  • Our Director, Adam Hadley, spoke with Politico Europe about the reactions we are seeing from online far-right extremist actors to the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan. Read the article here.
     
  • Our OSINT team spoke with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about Taliban use of online platforms. Article in German here

Top Stories

  • Following Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, Facebook and TikTok have confirmed they continue to view the Taliban as a terrorist organisation and that content related to the group will remain banned on their platforms. 
     
  • The German parliament’s Digital Agenda committee chief has written to Apple CEO Tim Cook to express concerns  about mass surveillance following Apple’s announcement that it would deploy tools to automatically detect child sexual abuse material on users’ devices. The letter urges Apple to not implement the system, both to “protect society’s data”, and to avoid “foreseeable problems” for the company itself.

    On Thursday, over 90 civil liberties organisations around the world sent a letter to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, similarly urging him to reverse the announced plans for Apple’s CSAM tools. To read more about this article, see our summary on it below. 
     
  • The Center for Democracy & Technology has released a report on “Approaches to Content Moderation in End-to-End Encrypted Systems”. The full report can be accessed here
     
  • Stanford’s Internet Observatory Cyber Policy Center has released a report on the platform GETTR, which details the platform’s content moderation. The report can be read here. 

Tech Policy

  • Global Organizations Urge Apple to Drop Child Safety Features: Issie Lapowsky discusses the letter sent by over 90 civil liberty organisations to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, urging Apple to “walk back” its plans to use machine learning to automatically detect child sexual abuse material on users’ devices. Lapowsky highlights the arguments within the letter, including that the organisations are concerned that the detection capabilities “will be used to censor protected speech, threaten the privacy and security of people around the world, and have disastrous consequences for many children”. Additional concerns voiced in the letter include that it could be a “slippery slope effect” where governments could compel Apple to extend the parental notification to other accounts, and to detect images that are objectionable for reasons other than being sexually explicit, as well as potentially putting LGBTQ+ youths at risk whose parents would be notified. (Lapowsky, Protocol, 19.08.2021). 

Violent Islamist extremism and terrorism

  • The Taliban Have Seized U.S. Military Biometrics Devices: Ken Klippenstein and Sara Sirota of The Intercept discuss the Taliban’s seizure of US military biometrics devices and its implications. They explain how the devices, called “Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment”, known as HIIDE, contain identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information, and are used to access large centralised databases. Klippenstein and Sirota stress that the US did not only collect information about criminals and terrorists; the government appears to also have been collecting biometrics from Afghans assisting diplomatic efforts, in addition to those working with the military. Therefore, the authors stress that these biometrics devices could worryingly aid in the identification of Afghans who assisted coalition forces. (Klippenstein and Sirota, The Intercept, 17.08.2021). 

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