The Anti-Social Network? How Facebook is using AI to tackle terrorism

Thursday 6 July 2017

Article by Kaitlyn Pryor

With all of the violence around the world recently, social media corporations have been under Facebook-securityparticular scrutiny. Prime Ministers Theresa May of England and Malcolm Turnbull of Australia have come together to compel all social media companies to increase their security measures to combat extremist members. Facebook was targeted as it is a “hotbed for terrorist recruitment, incitement, propaganda and the spreading of radical thinking.”

Facebook has begun working on improving its security technology using artificial intelligence to filter out inappropriate content.

Facebook’s artificial intelligence strategy focuses on:

- Matching known terrorist images or videos to potential posts for prevention
- Detecting text that has been previously used in support of terrorist organizations through a developing algorithm
- Discovering terrorism supporting pages, profiles, posts or groups and using an algorithm to find any relating signals in other accounts
- Quickly identifying fake accounts made by repeat terrorist offenders
- Refusing the ability to spread extremist data from one social media platform to another

Artificial intelligence has not yet been perfected so workers are still in high demand to manually interpret the content the algorithms find alarming. Teams around the world have been working 24 hours a day to review and determine how harmful the context of the reported posts are. Facebook has increased and prioritized their team of terrorism and safety specialists to over 150 people. If staff members believe a threat is serious enough, a global law enforcement team has been formed that can respond in minutes.

The most successful way to arrest the spread of terrorism online is for social media companies to band together. A collaborative database of “hashes,” which are virtual fingerprints for terrorist-related pictures and videos, has been formed with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Microsoft; and they’re hoping to add more companies soon. Facebook has been receiving informational sessions revolving around terrorist propaganda from the government and inter-governmental agencies. The EU Internet Forum, Global Coalition Against Daesh, and the UK Home Office has further connected Facebook with other similar industries.

Discovering and understanding the language terrorist groups use to communicate is not alwaysFB simple, as they often use encrypted messaging.  Facebook has been doing its best to interpret the small amount of information it can receive from encrypted messaging, through end-to-end encryption, and applying it to the laws and policies. Deleting the content is not enough; Facebook believes counterspeech needs to be incorporated as well. It is focusing on communicating with users to drive them away from an angry, violent life by collaborating with NGOs to provide the most effective speakers. Facebook has collaborated with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Affinis Labs to enhance counterspeech programs. Facebook even held a student competition through the P2P named the Facebook Global Digital Challenge, which spread across the world.

Facebook has released all of this information on their new blog . The blog was created to assure and inform the public of the problems they are working on and to give users an opportunity to suggest, comment and ask questions about the improvements. The Facebook team encourage interaction so they can truly give customers what they want and improve their website to be more beneficial.

So why is Facebook doubling down on this public relations exercise?

In order for a business to be successful, it requires positive publicity. When social media accounts are not secure, they become vulnerable to those such as extremists who seek to manipulate your brand and endanger your business. The public prefers to feel safe, so if social media platforms continue to be infiltrated by terrorist groups, people may discontinue or delete their accounts, stripping away a large marketing segment of the business world. Facebook and other social media companies are investing heavily in the latest artificial intelligence technologies and making sure the world knows about it, to protect their platforms as much as possible and further destroy the spread and communication of terrorist networks.

Even though artificial intelligence is a great way to limit the amount of terrorist propaganda throughout social media, businesses from many other industries can use this innovative technology to advance their company.  Some have already begun, like retailers applying artificial intelligence into their inventory and factory programming, utilities getting estimations for electricity demand, and car companies developing self-driving cars. Companies that have applied artificial intelligence into their main functions and operations have projected higher profits and forecast more successful performance for the future.

If this new security paradigm has made you re-evaluate your Facebook profile, there is a guide to make your account as private as you feel comfortable.  Check out their tips here .


Kaitlyn Pryor is currently interning at AmCham in Sydney. 

Click here for the first instalment in our ‘Cyber Series’, when we explore what YouTube and Google are doing in response to the spread of extremism via their platforms. Plus, stay tuned for the final part of the series looking at Twitter’s response! 

For more information on how you can contribute to the AmCham blog, check out our ‘AmCham Blog Guidelines‘ or contact our office today.


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