Facebook Enlists AI and Human Experts in New Push Against Terrorism

Facebook Enlists AI and Human Experts in New Push Against Terrorism

Facebook has hired more than 150 counterterrorism experts and is increasingly using artificial intelligence that can understand language and analyze images to try to keep terrorists from using the social network for recruiting and propaganda, according to Bloomberg.

Monika Bickert, director of global policy management, and Brian Fishman, counterterrorism policy manager, outlined aspects of Facebook’s latest efforts in a post to a new blog called "Hard Questions." It will address philosophical debates about the role of social media in society, from what should happen to a person’s digital history after they die to whether social media is good for democracy. The first post addresses how the company responds to the spread of terrorism online.

The move comes as Facebook is being hounded by governments to do more to combat terrorism. Following attacks in London and Manchester in the past four months, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May pressed other leaders from the Group of Seven nations to consider further regulation of social media companies to compel them to take additional steps against extremist content. Bickert and Fishman acknowledge this pressure in their post, writing that "in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, people have questioned the role of tech companies in fighting terrorism online."

Mark Zuckerberg has also been trying to position the company as a positive force for building communities both online and off. This new emphasis from Zuckerberg has followed uproar over Facebook’s role in the proliferation of false news accounts during the U.S. election campaign last year, as well as the spread of extreme content, such as videos of murder, posted to Facebook.

Over the past year Facebook has increased its team of counterterrorism experts and now has more than 150 people primarily dedicated to that role. Many of these people have backgrounds in law enforcement and they collectively speak almost 30 languages. In addition, Facebook has thousands of employees and contractors around the world that respond to reports of violations of its terms of service, whether that’s online bullying, posting porn or hate speech.

Facebook is also using AI to find terrorist content that users attempt to post to the social network. The company has deployed a system that stores a digital footprint of any video or photograph that has already been removed for promoting terrorism and automatically flags this to human reviewers if someone else tries to repost it. It’s also working with other social media companies to create a shared database of these digital signature to ensure that people can’t simply post the same content to Twitter or YouTube.

They're also experimenting with software capable of understanding the meaning of written language to analyze text posted to the site, the two executives said. They said they are currently training this system using text the company has previously removed for promoting terrorism. Once an account has been removed for posting terrorist content, Facebook has been using algorithms to search the social network connected with that account, including Pages and groups that account has joined or liked, to identify other accounts that may also be promoting terrorism.

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