Exclusive: Google, Facebook quietly move toward automatic blocking of extremist videos


SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some of the web’s biggest destinations for watching videos have quietly started using automation to remove extremist content from their sites, according to two people familiar with the process.

The move is a major step forward for internet companies that are eager to eradicate violent propaganda from their sites and are under pressure to do so from governments around the world as attacks by extremists proliferate, from Syria to Belgium and the United States.

YouTube and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, the sources said.

The technology was originally developed to identify and remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for “hashes,” a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly.

Such a system would catch attempts to repost content already identified as unacceptable, but would not automatically block videos that have not been seen before.

The companies would not confirm that they are using the method or talk about how it might be employed, but numerous people familiar with the technology said that posted videos could be checked against a database of banned content to identify new postings of, say, a beheading or a lecture inciting violence.



Good move! :thumbsup:


The issue is who gets to define “extremist.” It’s one thing to so identify incitements to violence, Aryan hate groups, etc. However, as we have seen in U.S. politics, as things have moved leftward, what once were generally accepted social values have increasingly come to be defined by some as “extremist.” Certainly many would identify even peaceful pro-life activities as representing “extremism.” To use what sadly has become a cliché, identifying and shutting-down “extremist” statements is a slippery slope, especially in a world where even in the West there are places characterizing Biblical teachings as “hate speech.”


Equally, left-wing ‘extremists’ who want to pick apart companies like Google and Facebook, rail against ‘The Banks’, or whatever, may also expect to find their videos blocked. It all goes both ways.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


Google and Facebook are private companies. Seems to me that they ought to be able to define “extremist”. If people don’t like it, then they can cease using their services.

If the government on the other hand dictates, then that could be problematic.


The internet is like the Wild West; new uncharted frontier.

I have this feeling that we really have no clue what we got ourselves into with the use of internet or what sort of repercussions we are going to feel in the future because of it. Like anything new, there are always promising hopeful things to come, but with that often comes troubles too.

No one is policing the net. In some small way, I’d like that to stay that way- but do I really?. Could there ever be a legitimate balance between measures taken to insure to keep what is good while eliminating that which is truly bad?

I don’t think anyone has the right to claim another as ‘extremist’. What is extreme to one is mundane to another. We do not all agree!!! That is fantasy thinking! Case in point: A religious pharmacist decides they cannot participate in handing out birth control- while you will hear someone point the finger at them and exclaim “extremist!”… are they really? Or are they just being TRUE to what they believe. This is a deadly slope… FOR ALL.

Kind of off topic there, but this is what I think of when I read such headlines. Talk about extremism? This can go to either extreme fast- in regulation or not to regulate the 'net. That’s what makes this topic uncomfortable to think about .


Likewise there is nothing stopping anyone from starting a new video sharing site, that does allow that type of content.of course the definition of ‘extremist’ can be very different, depending on who it is.


Is that so? I couldn’t care any less about it, but what about suggestive and sexual content? Even in safe search, it can’t be trusted.


Don’t get me wrong: I would be glad for things like beheadings and calls to kill the infidels to get less distribution. But I echo some of the sentiments here. What is extremism? Our Catholic views are very much seen as “extreme”- witness the ridiculous and unfair accusations made against Christians after the Orlando massacre. Of course, these are private companies and others will spring up to host the content.

AnneElizabeth: I think you’re very much on to something. The Internet has huge ramifications which we have not yet felt. I think this instantaneous, ubiquitous global data network will have more negative effects than we care to think of right now. We might have been much better off with more local data networks. And I foresee a lot more “private communities” built on the Internet in the future as people scramble to put up some boundaries around their online interactions, especially in the area of politics and such.


I think you are on to something here. I belong to such a group now, although we don’t really consider it a “private community”, although the reality is that it is, as membership is limited in number, unlike the openness of Facebook, while it can be somewhat private, as far as who can see what, it really isn’t all that private.


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