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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 10:39am

    Ahh yes, they've "been pressured". Poor, defenseless Google and Facebook and their massive lobbying budgets just couldn't seem to fend this off.

    I'd assume TD's stance is that these companies have "been pressured" to spy on the entire population and support things like CISPA as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 10:46am

    I can answer that

    But I'm curious what anyone thinks this is actually doing.
    The answer is, "something". I know it is not a good answer, but it is the correct one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 10:47am

    Define extremist

    How do they define extremist?
    Libertarians? hate groups? NRA members? Snowden supporters?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 10:57am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 11:16am

    The Ministry of Truth

    Google and Facebook may not have any malicious intent (or they might?) but this is definitely creating the tools to enable a very 1984 like cleansing of certain facts or views from what the majority of the public can see and locate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 11:30am

    What is extremist content?

    As some of you may understand what I consider to be vulgar, offensive, stupid, and extremist others consider to be the pinnacle of enlightenment and what I consider to be the pinnacle of enlightenment others consider to be the depth of ignorance and bigotry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 2:17pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 2:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Yeah I believe the sun rises in the USA and sets in the USA. Only logical reason for it since I can look out my window and see it do that daily. Everyone else is just stealing rays from the US sun.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TechDescartes (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 2:33pm

      Re:

      What is extremist content?
      Well, that depends on what the meaning of the word 'IS' IS...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 11:34am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 11:40am

    just good old propaganda

    This is nothing more than the government getting Google and facebook to push and control propaganda. It was good boy a matter of time because the government already does this with main stream news.

    Fear is and will always be the best motivator for people to join a cause and give up their rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 11:57am

    ...it seems like a much better response is counterspeech...

    Counterspeech is hard when nobody even bothers pretending they believe what you have to say. I think there's a lesson about the dangers of wolves in there somewhere...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 12:02pm

      Re:

      Counterspeech is hard when nobody even bothers pretending they believe what you have to say.

      A problem created by the very politicians who are complaining about extremists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 12:12pm

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jun 2016 @ 12:41pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 27 Jun 2016 @ 4:15pm

      Re: Au contraire

      Because human beings have no agency and are compelled to do things when told by media.

      No wonder we want to criminalize advertising.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2016 @ 3:32pm

    Two companies I try to avoid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 29 Jun 2016 @ 2:02pm

    Will they apply this fairly?

    ... and apply it to other extremist groups. For example, will they be removing posts from the Westboro Bapist Church and banning their members?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 4:40am

    Boy. Everyone knows that governments have copyrighted all forms of extremeism

    Dontch'ya know

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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