Tech Against Terrorism is a project launched and supported by the United Nations Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UN CTED) and implemented by QuantSpark Foundation. Our mission is to help the global tech industry protect itself from terrorist exploitation. We emphasize that such measures should respect freedom of expression and human rights. Our focus is global and comprehensive. We support companies of all sizes from across the tech ecosystem including social media, storage, encryption, security, fintech, and eCommerce. Additionally, we work with civil society and academia to help build consensus around proportionate measures to the moderate terrorist exploitation of the internet.
Tech Against Terrorism’s funding model is based on an equal share between companies and governments. This balance ensures that the project can maintain its neutral position. In 2017 the project was supported by the Government of Switzerland, the Republic of Korea, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Telefonica.
Tech Against Terrorism collaborates with stakeholders from all sectors who share our values and are willing to constructively support the global tech sector in tackling terrorist use of the internet whilst respecting human rights. In 2017 Tech Against Terrorism was invited by Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook to support the establishment of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) after the forum was launched in May 2017.
Our belief is that content takedown is part of the solution, but not the whole solution. We support an industry-led holistic approach to content regulation. Tech companies have demonstrated innovation through self-regulation, employing new technological solutions while recognizing that human expertise is necessary to accurately assess context and nuance at scale. Other methods of moderating harmful content include redirection, down-prioritization, positive counter-narrative messaging, safe searches, and online community education. As a project, we also believe that there tends to be an overemphasis from governments on violent content compared to non-violent content, as the latter may be just as (if not more) influential in a person’s radicalization process. However, we acknowledge that it is more difficult to identify and moderate non-violent content, and our project aims to support companies to determine appropriate approaches to content regulation.
Tech Against Terrorism acknowledges that there is no universal definition of terrorism. In fact, one of our observations when engaging with tech companies is that they struggle with moderating content on their sites due to this uncertainty. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult to define whether a video is part of terrorist propaganda, or whether it is an important piece of news that sheds light on human right abuses. When tech companies fail to make this distinction they are often criticised, but the fact is that there is no regulating body providing clear guidelines to companies whose platforms and audiences span the entire world. Tech Against Terrorism advocates for more coherence on this matter, and therefore suggests a global normative approach rather than an ad hoc approach from single governments. We recommend companies to consult the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions list, as it provides the best framework to the international consensus on individuals and groups defined as a terrorist. Having said that, we note the absence of certain groups in that list and particularly far-right terror groups. Therefore, companies should also consult the proscribed groups and individuals’ list in the specific region and/or country where the content is flagged. More information and practical advice on content removal can be found in our Knowledge Sharing Platform.
Tech Against Terrorism strongly supports transparency reporting. In our view, there are three main benefits of transparency reporting: it reinforces company values while easing concerns for users’ privacy, it raises awareness of the extent of government requests for content takedown, thus making it easier to hold them accountable, and it contributes to the wider debate on how content can be regulated without solely resorting to removal. We provide advice on how startups and small to medium-sized companies can produce transparency reports in our Knowledge Sharing Platform. For more information on our work on transparency reporting, see our report.
We emphasize that counter-terrorism efforts from companies must not infringe on freedom of speech. We commend all members and partners to consider Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and call on companies to commit to such international norms, through the Pledge that all Tech Against Terrorism members signs up for.
As a member of the Tech Against Terrorism initiative, tech companies will have access to the Knowledge Sharing Platform, a collection of interactive tools and resources designed to support the operational needs of smaller technology companies. It is a “one-stop shop” for companies to access practical resources to support their needs. This includes terrorist groups and individuals on the UN sanctions list, recommendations for model Terms of Service, Transparency Reports, standardized reporting formats, and other resources for use by companies.
We are working with the tech industry to help establish best practice regarding review mechanisms. In becoming members of Tech Against Terrorism, tech companies commit to exploring the new technological solutions including machine learning, while also recognizing that that human expertise is necessary to accurately assess context and nuance at scale. Further, we advocate for companies to develop adequate mechanisms to allow users to seek redress for content they believe has been unfairly taken down.
The Data Science Network’s (DSN) mission is to find ways to develop and deploy data-driven automated solutions to support smaller tech platforms in tackling terrorist use of their platforms. The initiative promotes an open-source approach to crowd-sourcing such solutions, and to help deploy machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science techniques in a pragmatic way that respects human rights. Similarly, the DSN aims to facilitate best practice sharing around foundational aspects of data science, such as data collection and infrastructure, in a manner that benefits smaller tech companies and expert researchers working on such solutions.
Smaller tech companies need support in developing and deploying data-driven solutions to help them tackle terrorism on their platforms. Such solutions inevitably need to span across various technologies and target various different purposes. To develop an accurate data-driven solution, data scientists need access to accurate training data. With regards to terrorism, such data can be difficult or expensive to acquire. Further, there is already range of existing solutions available that could help smaller tech companies. The challenge lies in finding ways to technically deploy and repurpose them on smaller platforms, which includes addressing fundamental aspects of data science such as data collection, cleaning, and infrastructure. The DSN aims to tackle this through establishing a network of researchers, developers, smaller tech companies, academics, and civil society organisations to instigate development and repurposing of solutions to support smaller platforms in a manner that is accurate, efficient, and in line with international law.