Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are going to build a database of terrorist imagery and terrorist recruitment propaganda that have been removed from their respective services. This database will be shared among the quartet, hoping to curb the terrorist content online.
The database will contain “hashes” – digital fingerprint of sorts – for every image or video that is removed from these services; the hashes will help the four companies track and suspend terrorist activities on their networks.
The joint announcement was made on Facebook’s Newsroom; each company will independently determine what content hash should go into this joint database, and no personally identifiable information will be included – this is specifically for images and videos that are shared across these networks.
Together, but not the same
This agreement doesn’t change any policy for any of the companies involved – they will still follow their own policies regarding such content and share any government requests to block content, as they have been doing for the past few years.
The four companies would still have to judge the content as they have been doing independently – the database will only help them do it quicker. For example, if a content hash in the database leads to an image or video that in fact does not break the policy of Twitter – a highly unlikely scenario – then Twitter can choose to ignore this hash, and the content would still be allowed on Twitter.
Of course, taking care of the ailing elements of our society is necessary – terrorism is one of the sickest parts of the human society, and it needs to be dealt with before it spreads.
While most of the work is done by governments and armies around the world, these online networks also need to be proactive about their policies regarding such material.
The collaboration is unique – it’s not every day you see competitors join forces for a common cause – and its effects in the long-term could be unexpected, but it is needed.