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US social media firms say they are removing violent content faster

US social media firms say they are removing violent content faster

Facebook Inc said it would temporarily block users who break its rules from broadcasting live video. That followed an international outcry after a gunman killed 51 people in New Zealand and streamed the attack live on his page

Facebook head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, Twitter Public Policy Director Nick Pickles and Google Director of Information Policy Derek Slater testify before a US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue of the dissemination of mass violence and extremism on social media platforms in Washington, US September 18, 2019

Facebook head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, Twitter Public Policy Director Nick Pickles and Google Director of Information Policy Derek Slater testify before a US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue of the dissemination of mass violence and extremism on social media platforms in Washington, US September 18, 2019

Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Critics say too many violent videos or posts that back extremist groups supporting terrorism are not immediately removed from social media websites

Major US social media firms told a Senate panel Wednesday they are doing more to prevent to remove violent or extremist content from online platforms in the wake of several high-profile incidents, focusing on using more technological tools to act faster.

Critics say too many violent videos or posts that back extremist groups supporting terrorism are not immediately removed from social media websites.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said social media firms need to do more to prevent violent content.

Facebook's head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, told the Senate Commerce Committee its software detection systems have "reduced the average time it takes for our AI to find a violation on Facebook Live to 12 seconds, a 90 per cent reduction in our average detection time from a few months ago."

In May, Facebook Inc said it would temporarily block users who break its rules from broadcasting live video. That followed an international outcry after a gunman killed 51 people in New Zealand and streamed the attack live on his page.

Bickert said Facebook asked law enforcement agencies to help it access "videos that could be helpful training tools" to improve its machine learning to detect violent videos.

Earlier this month, the owner of 8chan, an online message board linked to several recent mass shootings, gave a deposition on Capitol Hill after police in Texas said they were "reasonably confident" the man who shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Facebook banned links to violent content that appeared on 8chan.

Twitter Inc public policy director Nick Pickles said the website suspended more than 1.5 million accounts for terrorism promotion violations between August 2015 and the end of 2018 with "more than 90 per cent of these accounts are suspended through our proactive measures."

Twitter was asked by Senator Rick Scott why the site allows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to have an account given what he said were a series of brazen human rights violations. "If we remove that person's account it will not change facts on the ground," Pickles said, who added that Maduro's account has not broken Twitter's rules.

Alphabet Inc unit Google's global director of information policy, Derek Slater, said the answer is "a combination of technology and people. Technology can get better and better at identifying patterns. People can help deal with the right nuances."

Of 9 million videos removed in a three-month period this year by YouTube, 87 per cent were flagged by artificial intelligence.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Credit: Reuters
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed Facebook’s initiative to improve its use of technology and change its policies to try and prevent the harm caused online after March 15. 

These are the kinds of efforts the Christchurch Call to Action was designed for as we try to eliminate the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online,” says Ardern, in a statement.

“Facebook’s actions highlight some of the early success of the Christchurch Call and show real change is happening.

“There is more work to do, but we have made a good start.”

Ardern says she is looking forward to discussing in person some of the work other companies and countries have done to progress the Christchurch Call when supporters regroup on Monday, during UN Leaders’ Week.

(Reporting for Reuters by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Zieminski; and Divina Paredes for CIO New Zealand)

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Tags social mediaFacebookcorporate social responsibilityAIlive streamingJacinda ArdernAlphabetethics of big datahate speechextremismChristchurch Callgeopolitics

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