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Facebook Uses AI to Catch Terrorists

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 20, 2017 11:58 AM

In a world where the First Amendment doesn't apply, Facebook has more power than the government to crush terrorism's ugly head.

For example, the company can keep terrorist pictures and videos off the largest social media site on the planet. An algorithm can detect such content and prevent it from seeing Facebook daylight.

So when ISIS tries to shock the world with a beheading video, they are not going to see it on Facebook.

Self-Regulation

While free speech critics cry "censorship," Facebook is really exercising a form of self-regulation. The company does it to propagandist language, posts, and groups.

"This work is never finished because it is adversarial, and the terrorists are continuously evolving their methods too," said Monika Bickert, the company's director of global policy management. "We're constantly identifying new ways that terrorist actors try to circumvent our systems -- and we update our tactics accordingly."

In other matters, Facebook has resisted government efforts to obtain user information. But terrorism is something else.

After the attack on London Bridge, Prime Minister Theresa May proposed more regulation for social media to combat terrorist communications online. Mark Zuckerberg responded with a promise to employ 3,000 more people in the cause.

Law Enforcement

According to reports, the company hired more than 150 people to work primarily or exclusively on combating terrorism in the past year. They work alongside teams who review suspicious content and share it with law enforcement.

Bikert said Facebook has worked with government and inter-government agencies in the past. While the company protects the privacy of encrypted messages for "legitimate uses," she said, the company cooperates with governments to track terrorists who also use encryption to communicate on social media.

In the March attack, the Westminster killer sent a message through an encrypted application that prevented security services from accessing it. Homeland Secretary Amber Rudd said encryption was unacceptable.

"There should be no place for terrorists to hide," she said. "We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other."

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