This Will Backfire: Google/Facebook Using Copyright Tools To Remove 'Extremist' Content

from the slippery-slippery-slope dept

They’ve been pressured to do this for a while, but according to a Reuters report over the weekend, both Google and Facebook have started using some of their automation tools to start automatically removing “extremist” content. Both are apparently using modifications to their copyright takedown technology:

The technology was originally developed to identify and remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for “hashes,” a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly.

In other words, the companies aren’t (yet) using these tools to automatically determine what’s “extremist” and block it, but rather they’re just keeping it from being posted. Of course, we’re all quite familiar with how badly this can fail in the copyright context, and it’s quite likely the same thing may happen in this context as well. Remember, in the past, under pressure from a US Senator, YouTube took down a Syrian watchdog’s channel, confusing its documentation of atrocities with extremist content. And, hell, the same day that this was reported, a reporter on Twitter noted that her own Facebook account was suspended because she posted a picture of a friend of hers who had been killed in Syria.

And that’s a big part of the issue here: context totally matters. One person’s extremist content may be quite informative/useful in other contexts.

Yes, I know that there’s a big push for “countering violent extremism” online these days. And the government, in particular, has been putting lots of pressure on the big tech companies to “do something.” But I’m curious what anyone thinks this is actually doing. The people who want to see these videos will still see these videos. It still seems like a fairly exaggerated threat to think that someone just watching some YouTube videos will suddenly decide that’s why they’re going to join ISIS. And, if that is the case, it seems like a much better response is counterspeech — put up other videos that rebut the claims in the “extremist” videos, rather than blocking them across the board. Of course, if they’re being matched via ContentID, even someone offering commentary on a video to debunk claims may suddenly find out that their videos are being taken down as well. I can’t see how that’s at all helpful.

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Companies: facebook, google

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Comments on “This Will Backfire: Google/Facebook Using Copyright Tools To Remove 'Extremist' Content”

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Groaker (profile) says:

Google and Facebook give all appearances of joining the rest of the mass media in censorship on purely political grounds.

And it is quite effective as demonstrated by the NY Times holding back the proof of torture at Gitmo for about a year, which allowed Bush43 to re-elected.

Never mind the loss of free elections when the physical process was taken over by electronic machines. Scandals erupt in the abuse of this voting abuse, but they are then hushed up. Even when the population should be outraged. Mark Foley is one that never got his due inspection on that issue.

And then there are always the scandals of the thick blue line that rarely get light shown upon them.

What does it take for for people to start noticing these things.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Taking an extreme position.

Some say the sun rises in the East. Others say the sun rises in the West. The truth lies probably somewhere in between.

If you take an extreme position that the sun rises in the East, then you are an extremist. Learn to be more fair minded and consider the other viewpoints before spewing such extremist propaganda.

Ninja (profile) says:

there’s a big push for “countering violent extremism” online these days

Because we live in a world where no atrocities happen. And unicorns.

This is like trying to block the sun using a sieve. Not only the sun will still be on the other side of it but it will inevitably go through.

I have this feeling we will enter a new Dark Age right in the contemporary world because the douches that hold the power are too sensitive to some content and want to hide it. For the children, why not?

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Code of Conduct

Apparently there is a contest to see how many tenets of Google’s Code of Conduct can be broken in a single act.

It would appear that they knocked out “integrity”, “usefulness”, and “freedom of expression” straight away. If no Google employee does anything about this, they will have knocked out “responsiveness” and “take action” as well. That only leaves “privacy” and “security”. Just wait till we get reports of email accounts and other non-public material being deleted.

This just might work…

Anonymous Coward says:

Au contraire

It still seems like a fairly exaggerated threat to think that someone just watching some YouTube videos will suddenly decide that’s why they’re going to join ISIS

This is demonstrably false as we all know, because Obama and Hillary told us, that it as a YouTube video with only 600 views that inspired the attack in Benghazi. Imagine what would happen if the wrong video goes viral!

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