A software tool unveiled recently aims to help online firms quickly find and eliminate extremist content used to spread and incite violence and attacks.
The Counter Extremism Project, a nongovernment group based in Washington, proposed its software be used in a system similar to one used to prevent the spread on online child pornography.
The software was developed by Dartmouth University computer scientist Hany Farid, who also worked on the PhotoDNA system now widely used by Internet companies to stop the spread of content showing sexual exploitation or pornography involving children. But social media firms have yet to commit to using the tool for extremist content.
The announcement comes amid growing concerns about radical jihadists using social networks to diffuse violent and gruesome content and recruit people for attacks.
“We think this is the technological solution to combat online extremism,” said Mark Wallace, chief executive of the organization that includes former diplomats and public officials from the United States and other countries.
The group proposed the creation of an independent “National Office for Reporting Extremism” that would operate in a similar fashion to the child pornography center—identifying and flagging certain content to enable online firms to automatically remove it.
This system, if adopted by Internet firms, “would go a long way to making sure than online extremist is no longer pervasive,” Wallace said during a conference call with journalists.
He said it could be useful in stopping the “viral” spread of videos of beheadings and killings such as those produced by the Islamic State group.
The system is based on “robust hashing” or finding so-called digital signatures of content of text, images, audio and video that can be tracked to enable platforms to identify and stop content from being posted or reposted.
Social networks have long stressed they will help legitimate investigations of crimes and attacks, but have resisted efforts to police or censor the vast amounts content flowing through them.