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United Kingdom develops tool to automatically block extremist content

14 February 2018

Rudd said she was keen for social media companies to adopt similar automated approaches to speed up the removal of terrorist content online.

Rudd has this week travelled to Silicon Valley to hold a series of meetings with the main communication service providers to discuss tackling terrorist content online.

The new tool has been trained to spot extremist material using more than 1,000 ISIL videos.

Earlier in the day, the Home Office announced it had given London-based AI company ASI Data Science £600,000 to create software to automatically detect and block jihadist content from websites.

The Home Secretary and US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visited senior executives from leading venture capital firms, asking them to ensure the start-ups they invested in had taken appropriate anti-terrorist measures.

John Gibson, director of data science technology at ASI, told The National that the tool could easily be rolled out globally, including in the UAE. "We're not going to rule out taking legislative action if we need to do it, but I remain convinced that the best way to take real action, to have the best outcomes, is to have an industry-led forum like the one we've got".

According to the Home Office, the new tool can be used by any platform, and integrated into the upload process, "so that the majority of video propaganda is stopped before it ever reaches the internet".

The tool was made as a way to demonstrate that the government's demand for a clampdown on extremist activity was not unreasonable, Rudd said.

Rudd is on a two-day visit to San francisco meeting with tech giants and USA officials to discuss how to better combat extremists on Internet platforms. But the government said its algorithm could be used by smaller platforms that do not have the same level of resources to develop technology. Even with a high degree of accuracy, critics say, there could be a lot of false positive when used with a major distributor of video content.

The government also faces a challenge in predicting which platforms terrorists will turn to next.

All five major United Kingdom terrorist attacks in 2017 had an "online component", Ms Rudd said, adding there was a need to prevent the material being uploaded online and radicalising people. Home Office research found Daesh supporters published material on 400 unique platforms in 2017, including 145 previously unused platforms between July and December alone.

United Kingdom develops tool to automatically block extremist content