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.


TWITTER POLL: Readers split over effect of coronavirus pandemic on spending 

Updated 09 July 2020

TWITTER POLL: Readers split over effect of coronavirus pandemic on spending 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home and lockdown restrictions have left many to be confined at home with little to spend on. 
But in an Arab News Twitter poll that asked whether people have managed to save, the answers were divided. 
Out of 609 votes, only 34 percent said their savings have increased since the start of the pandemic, while 22.5 percent said they were still spending. 
However, 33.5 percent said they couldn’t afford to save as many lost their jobs due to business closure. 


According to a UN Economic Commission for Western Asia report, the coronavirus pandemic threatens to wipe out more than 1.7 million jobs across the Arab world this year.
Arab nations’ gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to shrink by at least $42 billion in 2020, hit by plunging oil prices and virus-linked shutdowns, the report said.
“More than 1.7 million jobs could be lost in 2020, with the unemployment rate increasing by 1.2 percentage points,” it claimed.

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