Meta isn’t the only tech heavyweight making tools to help root out terrorist content. The Financial Times has learned Google’s Jigsaw is developing a free tool to help smaller websites detect and remove extremist material. The project, built with the help of the UN-supported Tech Against Terrorism, makes it easier for moderator teams to deal with potentially illegal content. The effort has the assistance of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (founded by Google, Meta, Microsoft and Twitter), which offers a cross-service database of terrorist items. Two unnamed sites will test the code later this year.
As with Meta’s open source utility, Google’s tool is meant to assist sites that can’t afford to develop AI detection algorithms or hire a large moderation staff. That may be critical when the European Union’s Digital Services Act and the UK’s looming Online Safety bill will both require that site operators pull extremist content to avoid penalties.
Both Google and Tech Against Terrorism see their project as necessary to close a gap in countering online terrorist activity. Extremists and misinformation peddlers kicked off mainstream platforms frequently turn to smaller outlets that can’t always adequately police users. Ideally, this reduces the chances of terrorists finding safe havens.
There are limitations. Some social platforms have been reluctant to moderate content even when app store operators say it incites violence — Google’s tool won’t be very useful on websites that don’t want it. It also won’t stop terrorists from sharing material over well-encrypted messaging services or the Dark Web, where providers can’t easily snoop on data traffic. This might, however, make it harder to jump to online alternatives.