Tech companies Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube are launching a new anti-terrorist initiative aimed at removing extremist propaganda while promoting "counter-speech" efforts.
The new Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism marks the latest in a series of steps that Silicon Valley is taking to combat terrorism. Last December, the tech companies announced plans to create a joint database that uses digital fingerprinting techniques to identify and remove photos, videos and other images that can be used to promote terrorism. Several months before, the companies said they would follow EU rules requiring review and potential removal of most "hateful online content" within 24 hours of notification.
"The spread of terrorism and violent extremism is a pressing global problem and a critical challenge for us all," Twitter said Monday in a blog post about the new effort. "We believe that by working together, sharing the best technological and operational elements of our individual efforts, we can have a greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online."
The initiative announced Monday also includes a plan to counter terrorist propaganda with other points of view.
In the U.S., Web companies are not required to censor their sites. While some people have attempted to sue Twitter, Facebook and other companies for allegedly encouraging terrorism, those efforts have failed in court, thanks to the Communications Decency Act -- a 20-year-old law that immunizes Web companies from liability for crimes committed by users.
But laws in the EU call for Web sites to take down a variety of posts, including terrorist propaganda. Lawmakers in Germany are currently considering a plan to fine social media companies more than $50 million for failing to take down illegal material, including hate speech and posts that incite violence, within 24 hours of being notified.