World leaders at the G20 summit in Osaka have issued a statement calling on online platforms to do more to counter live streaming and distribution of terrorist attacks and violent extremism conducive to terrorism (VECT), as a number of platforms have agreed to new safeguards against live streaming of violent content. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who was the driving force behind the G20 statement, separately announced that several of the major digital platforms have committed to new anti-terror measures as proposed by the Australian Taskforce to Combat Terrorist and Extreme Violent Material Online.
The G20 leaders specifically referred to March’s terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, which were live streamed on Facebook. The incident highlighted the trouble for online platforms with tackling live streamed terrorist content specifically, since by it’s nature it must be dealt with quickly, and there is no opportunity for content to be reviewed before it is published. But while the G20 statement acknowledged the complexity of the challenge, the leaders said this “does not lessen the importance of platforms mitigating the proliferation of terrorist and VECT content, which harms society, via their platforms”.
The G20 statement did not call for any specific changes to be made, but rather served as a call for online platforms to step up their efforts. “We strongly encourage a concerted effort to set
out, implement and enforce terms of service to detect and prevent terrorist and VECT content from appearing on their platforms,” said the statement. “Amongst other measures, this may be achieved by developing technologies.”
But upon the recommendation of the Australian Taskforce, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter among others have agreed to a number of specific new measures. These include the creation of new policies which prevent users of their platforms from live streaming video less than 24 hours after creating their accounts, the improvement of their user reporting mechanisms for live-streamed content, and a pledge to report to the government on their efforts to develop appropriate checks on live streaming.
Both the G20 leaders and the Australian Taskforce highlighted the important of cross-industry collaboration on tackling the problem, noting the work of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), an industry body set up by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube in 2017. “We encourage collaboration with industry, media outlets, researchers and civil society to strengthen GIFCT and expand its membership to be more inclusive,” said the G20 statement. “A strengthened GIFCT would enhance cross-industry understanding, collaboration and the capability of big and small companies to prevent terrorist and VECT exploitation of their platforms.”
As recommended by the Taskforce, the digital platforms named have committed to work more closely with other members of the GIFCT to strengthen the has-sharing database and URL-sharing consortium, two efforts which help prevent re-uploading of blocked material and link-sharing across different platforms.
As always with these sorts of commitments, it remains to be seen how much solid progress actually results from them. But Morrison warned social platforms that “if they don’t deliver on their commitments, we will move to legislate and do so quickly.” And given how he’s been active in getting other world leaders to support his efforts, it’s likely he would push for other countries to legislate too.