White House talks: Social media giants discuss counterterrorism

The FBI is looking for outside contractors to monitor social media for potential threats. (AP)
Updated 13 August 2019

White House talks: Social media giants discuss counterterrorism

  • Companies highlight efforts using automated tools and human review to prevent the spread of hateful content

WASHINGTON: White House officials and big social media companies met recently to talk about how to curb extremism online after two mass shootings that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio recently. After the shootings, US President Donald Trump laid blame on the internet and social media for providing places “to radicalize disturbed minds” and called on the Justice Department to work with companies “to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”
Social media companies have come under increasing scrutiny since a white supremacist broadcast deadly attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, online. But law enforcement experts say identifying and stopping extremists online is easier said that done, given free speech protections and censorship concerns.
The White House declined to comment on who took part or led the closed-door meeting.
Trump did not attend, having traveled to New York for fundraisers ahead of a planned vacation at his golf course in New Jersey.
“The conversation focused on how technology can be leveraged to identify potential threats, to provide help to individuals exhibiting potentially violent behavior and to combat domestic terror,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
“We urge internet and social media companies to continue their efforts in addressing violent extremism and helping individuals at risk, and to do so without compromising free speech,” Deere said.
The Washington Post reported Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit were invited to the meeting.

We urge internet and social media companies to continue their efforts in addressing violent extremism and helping individuals at risk, and to do so without compromising free speech.

Judd Deere, White House spokesman

Their lobby group, the Internet Association, said the meeting was productive and that the companies talked about how they fight extremism online.
The companies “detailed their extensive efforts using automated tools and human review to find and prevent the spread of hateful, violent, and extremist content on their platforms,” Internet Association Chief Cxecutive Michael Beckerman said.
The House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee recently called the owner of online messaging board 8chan, an American who lives in the Philippines, to testify about the site’s efforts to tackle “extremist content.”  Authorities have cited a lengthy anti-immigrant manifesto, apparently posted on 8chan by the suspect in the El Paso killings, as evidence of a racial motive.
Ahead of his trip, President Trump said social media companies would be coming to the White House on Friday.  
But he focused his comments on complaints that online platforms suppress conservative voices.


India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

Updated 38 min 45 sec ago

India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

  • Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants
  • On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on

GUWAHATI: Internet access was cut in India’s northeastern city of Guwahati on Friday as thousands gathered for fresh protests against a new citizenship law, a day after police shot dead two demonstrators.
Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and which other critics say is anti-Muslim.
On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.
No fresh violence was reported but Guwahati and other areas remained littered from the detritus of recent days, with some roads blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.
A local government official said that Internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.
The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile Internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was planning to scrap a visit to the city due to begin on Sunday as the security situation deteriorated, media reported Friday. The Japanese leader had been slated to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Thursday, police had fired live and blank rounds as thousands of demonstrators in Guwahati and elsewhere took to the streets, some vandalising property and torching vehicles.
The two demonstrators killed in the city were among around 20 people being treated in hospital, “a few” of whom had gunshot wounds, said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at a Guwahati hospital.
Hundreds of passengers stuck at Guwahati airport were brought to the city on government buses with police escort in the early hours of Friday morning.
Several thousand troops have been drafted in to help police, who fired tear gas and charged demonstrators with batons, in recent days.
Security was increased at the Bangladeshi consulate in Guwahati after a vehicle in the consul’s convoy was attacked Wednesday by mobs, the foreign ministry in Dhaka said.
“They cant settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,” Manav Das, a protester told AFP on Friday.
“We will defeat the government with the force of the people and the government will be forced to revoke the law,” said local activist Samujal Battacharya.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), signed into law by the Indian president late Thursday, allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from three neighboring countries, but not Muslims.
For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights groups, it is part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies this.
The US State Department on Thursday urged India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities,” according to Bloomberg.
But many in India’s northeast object for different reasons, fearing that immigrants from Bangladesh — many of them Hindus — will become citizens, taking jobs and weakening the local culture.
The chief ministers of the states of Punjab in the north and Kerala in the south also said that they would not implement the law, the Hindu daily reported.
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