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.


‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News takes a Deep Dive into Saudi history with a multimedia look at the siege of Makkah's Grand Mosque

Updated 3 min 7 sec ago

‘Juhayman: 40 years on:’ Arab News takes a Deep Dive into Saudi history with a multimedia look at the siege of Makkah's Grand Mosque

  • Featuring interviews with key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s English-language newspaper tells the full story of the unthinkable event that cast a shadow over its society for decades
  • As part of its Deep Dive series online, featuring documentary-style multimedia stories, Arab News looks back at this event in a way no Saudi publication has done before

Forty years ago this week, on Nov. 20, 1979, a group of militants did the unthinkable: They seized the Grand Mosque in Makkah, taking people hostage inside in a two-week standoff with Saudi forces.

Until recently, the crisis remained too painful for Saudis to examine fully for almost four decades. Now Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English-language daily, is looking back at the event in a way that no publication in the Kingdom has done before: with a multimedia Deep Dive story online at arabnews.com/juhayman-40-years-on.

“The 1979 attack on Makkah’s  Grand Mosque halted major social development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, negatively affecting a progressing nation for generations to come,” said Rawan Radwan, the lead reporter on the project, who is based in Jeddah. “At Arab News, we delved deep into the matter to uncover the story of Juhayman, the terrorist who seized the holiest site and shook the Islamic world. It’s a story that for many years struck fear in the hearts of the Saudi people, yet has not been covered in such depth in local or international media — until now.”

Arab News launched its Deep Dive series earlier this year as an engaging new way to showcase its in-depth storytelling on key topics, enlivened by audio, video and animated graphics. Its first story was an in-depth account of the space mission by the first Arab astronaut, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman; the siege of Makkah is another story from the Kingdom’s past that it chose to revisit.

Extensive research was conducted over two months in several cities, including Makkah itself, and involved teams in five of Arab News’ bureaus: Jeddah, Riyadh, Dubai, London and Beirut. The team interviewed key players such as Prince Turki Al-Faisal, then head of the General Intelligence Directorate, and re-created what happened in a series of interactive maps.

 

Juhayman: 40 years on
On the anniversary of the 1979 attack on Makkah's Grand Mosque, Arab News tells the full story of an unthinkable event that shocked the Islamic world and cast a shadow over Saudi society for decades
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