The World Economic Forum’s human rights council report issued on Monday, warns that tech companies might risk tougher regulations by governments to limit freedom of speech if they do not stem the publishing of violent content by Islamic State and the spread of misinformation.
The report urged tech companies to employ thorough monitoring on their services, and “assume a more active self-governance rule,” recommending that tech firms must apply more rigorous rules.
This report comes before the three tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google, testify before a U.S. congressional committee in November about using their platforms for spreading political misinformation during the 2016 presidential elections.
The use of tech platforms and tools has helped the Islamic State spread its agenda and attract recruits. Digital propaganda motivated more than 30,000 people to journey thousands of miles to join IS, according to a report published by Wired, a magazine published in print and online editions, that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy, and politics.
“ISIS’s supporters embraced new social media platforms and encrypted communications tools to compensate for law enforcement and platform owner actions against ISIS since June 2014,” the Institute for the Study of War said in its report “The Virtual Caliphate.”
Silicon Valley tech companies convened last August with representatives from the tech industry, government and non-governmental organizations in the first Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. The forum was formed by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube.
The meeting focused on how participating parties can cooperate to block the spread of terrorism and violent extremism using tech platforms and services.
In the past year, social media companies edited and updated their user guidelines to address such sensitive topics as extremism and terrorism, death, war and sexual abuse.
In August 2016, Twitter announced that it suspended 360,000 accounts for violating the company’s prohibition on violent threats and the promotion of terrorism. Twitter added that although there is no “one magic algorithm for identifying terrorist content on the internet, they will continue to utilize other forms of technology and expanded its partnerships with organizations working to counter violent extremism (CVE) online.”
Last August, Google’s YouTube announced joining efforts with more than 15 additional expert NGOs and institutions to help the company better identify content that is being used to radicalize and recruit extremists.
“We'll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren’t illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism,” YouTube said.
In a speech for the Global Coalition on March 22 in Washington D.C., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “We must break ISIS's ability to spread its message and recruit new followers online. A digital caliphate must not flourish in the place of a physical one.”
“We must fight ISIS online as aggressively as we would on the ground,” Tillerson said.