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Terrorism

Social media giants announce new plan to curb terrorist propaganda

Four major internet companies have agreed to create a common database to identify terrorist propaganda. German government officials have claimed that social media operators are "too slow" in removing illicit content.

Plagued by growing terrorist recruitment on social media platforms, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter on Tuesday announced renewed efforts to curb the distribution of content used to propagate extremism.

In a statement, the companies said they will create a database to store unique digital "fingerprints" of content deemed to terrorist in nature.

"We hope this collaboration will lead to greater efficiency as we continue to enforce our policies to help curb the pressing global issue of terrorist content online," the technology companies said in a statement.

Facebook spokeswoman Sally Aldous said the new program set to begin in early 2017 aims to tackle the "most obvious" content used by groups hoping to fuel terrorism.

"We really are going after the most obvious serious content that is shared online - that is, the kind of recruitment videos and beheading videos more likely to be against all our content policies," she said.

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'Too slow'

The program comes amid increasing pressure from Western governments to remove extremist content from social media platforms.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas in October threatened social media operators with legal repercussions if they fail to remove hate speech, saying that removal of illicit content has been "too slow."

However, the amount of content circulating online, along with concerns of undermining free speech, has challenged social media companies' ability to quickly and effectively remove such content.

"Since the middle of 2015, we have suspended more than 360,000 accounts for violating Twitter's policy on violent threats and the promotion of terrorism," said Sinead McSweeney, vice president of public policy at Twitter.

"A large portion of these accounts have been removed by technical means, including our proprietary spam-fighting tools," McSweeney added.

The four companies said they plan to involve additional entities in the future.

ls/bw (Reuters, AP)

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