France, UK and Italy cooperate to fight terrorism online

United Nations – Fight against terrorism/cyber security/digital technology/high-level meeting on preventing terrorist use of the Internet – Joint statement by the United Kingdom, France and Italy¹

New York, 20 September 2017

In the presence of Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom, President Macron of France and Prime Minister Gentiloni of Italy, leaders from industry, like-minded countries, the UN and EU met today in the margins of the UN General Assembly to reaffirm our collective determination to prevent the Internet from being misused by terrorist groups and individuals. We agreed that terrorist use of the Internet is a global issue that needs innovative, international solutions.

We have committed to working together to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online and the use of the Internet by terrorists to radicalize, recruit, inspire or incite. No individual nation state can respond to this threat alone. The response must be global and it must be collaborative. The threat of terrorist content online can only be effectively countered by the tech industry, governments and non-governmental organizations working together at significantly greater pace and scale.

Further to the recent G7 Taormina Statement on the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, the joint French-British action plan on Internet security, G20 Summit declarations, and existing initiatives of the EU Internet Forum, those present today reiterated support for the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, launched by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube on 26 June.

Research indicates that over two-thirds of the dissemination of new terrorist content takes place within two hours of release. Recognizing this, we have set the challenge to industry, working collaboratively through the Forum, to develop solutions to remove material within one to two hours of upload, with the wider objective of preventing such material from being uploaded in the first place. We have also challenged industry to pursue the development of technical tools in order to ensure that individuals tempted by violent extremism are not exposed to content that reinforces their extremist inclination – so-called “algorithmic confinement”.

As leaders of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube have emphasized their shared ambition to prevent terrorists from exploiting the Internet to radicalize, recruit and spread propaganda, and to protect their users from terrorists and violent extremists online. They have committed to a range of platform-specific and Forum-wide efforts to better tackle terrorist abuse of open platforms, including exploring artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate the identification of terrorist content; building on their hash-sharing database of known terrorist content to help more companies to detect and prevent re-upload of that content; and other initiatives to support smaller companies build capabilities for tackling terrorist abuse of their platforms.

To deliver these aims, they have reinforced their commitment to a work programme which includes:

Leveraging technology

Significantly improving the speed at which Forum members identify and remove content from their platforms. Industry recognize the importance of removing material as quickly as possible. They are committed to finding new ways to detect and remove content and have expressed their ambition to use machine learning and other innovative technical solutions to make progress, whilst protecting freedom of speech. Members of the GIFCT will also focus on the removal of legacy material and ensure previously identified terrorist material is not re-uploaded on their platforms.

Pursuing the development of technical tools in order to ensure that individuals tempted by violent extremism are not exposed to content that reinforces their extremist inclination.

Knowledge sharing and best practice

Working with smaller platforms to ensure they cannot be exploited by terrorists by sharing knowledge and best practice, including by:

-  Setting out minimum industry standards on the prohibition of terrorist content in Terms of Service, including the ability to receive reports and take action and the development of reporting standards. The founding members of the Forum will support smaller companies in meeting these standards.

-  Driving improvement across 25 sites most commonly used by terrorists, and extending the hash-sharing database to as many companies as possible in order to support efforts to identify and remove new and legacy material.

-  Holding workshops spanning three continents in Jakarta, Brussels and New York to share best practice and aiming to reach 50 companies.

-  Expanding support for civil society organizations by providing services and knowledge from Forum members to give civil society organizations the practical tools to deliver effective counter and alternative-narratives and help them expand their global reach.


Building on existing efforts, the founding members of the Forum have made a multi-million dollar commitment to support research that improves the response of industry to terrorist abuse of the Internet working with academic and research institutions around the world to identify under-researched areas and opportunities to build a deeper understanding of how companies, governments and civil society can better tackle online radicalization.

We believe that the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism provides the best overarching mechanism through which to tackle the evolving threat posed by terrorist use of the Internet. We have recognized the international nature of the online terrorist threat and the need to build global momentum to tackle it in a comprehensive way. We agreed to support the Forum, as well as existing regional initiatives in the sector of countering terrorism online, as they take vital steps towards this through their work to undertake research, share knowledge and develop technical solutions that will help their industry as a whole to protect their global user base.

Together we can make significant strides in tackling this issue. This was an important first step and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with industry on these issues, including the application of the hash-sharing database, at the G7 Interior Ministers’ meeting in Rome in October./.

¹Source of English text: UK government website.

72nd United Nations General Assembly – Fight against terrorism/cyber security/digital technology – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic

New York, 20 September 2017

Prime Minister, chère Theresa,

Prime Minister, cher Paolo,

Cher Ken Walker,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I can totally subscribe to what Theresa May has just said, and indeed – particularly following the attacks Britain has had to endure – the initiative taken in Taormina under the Italian G7 presidency, then the initiative taken in the Franco-British joint statement, subsequently extended to our European partners, signalled our collective determination to make progress towards the agenda of a bigger, more effective fight against terrorist propaganda online.

What are we talking about? As the Prime Minister has just said, it’s about our collective effectiveness in protecting our citizens. And it’s a challenge we share as governments and Internet operators. We must make no mistake: if, in today’s world, with contemporary communication technology, we’re no longer capable as governments of guaranteeing to protect our fellow citizens from what endangers them, from those who kill our children, then either we change our civilization or we’ll move towards much tougher rules.

And we’ve already wasted a lot of time on this issue, because for too long some people believed it was up to governments alone to protect our fellow citizens. And it does have to be said that the world of the Internet is a tremendous opportunity which revolutionizes our horizons, enables us to be more efficient and creates a new continent of opportunities, but unfortunately the worst things also occur there. And so the question is how, collectively, we shoulder our responsibilities to ensure that the worst things no longer occur there.

In this respect, today’s statement is a step. Is it a big enough one? No. Is it satisfactory? In a way, because it’s an improvement on the situation we were in. Does it call for other meetings and further progress? Decidedly yes, because if we can’t make progress in this way, we won’t be able to make it in other ways, under the pressure of events, and we won’t make it through legislation, so collectively we think it’s more intelligent to proceed as we are today.

The first effort, the first direction adopted by this statement is the approach we’ve been taking collectively for several weeks, namely the removal of content expressing support for terrorism and calling for violence. The speed of detection and removal of potentially terrorist or hate-filled content is making headway. As the Prime Minister has just recalled, every hour counts, every hour, because young or less young people have access to this propaganda and can switch, in an instant, to very vulnerable situations; we know this, it’s been documented.

Not all content is identified, and I don’t underestimate the difficulty of identifying actual terrorist content. The most brutal and violent scenes can be easily identified, but there’s more insidious language, and so we must work even more to identify it more effectively. Moreover, removed content may reappear, and some content isn’t even removed, given the difficulty of detecting it.

And faced with a modern army of terrorists who use an asymmetrical modus operandi, both states and companies must adapt their strategies. First of all, it seems to me that the major companies represented here have pledged, in the joint statement we’re going to publish, to increase the resources devoted to removing content. That’s a necessary commitment which I want to commend here. We need more investment in research, more human resources, more automation to achieve swift, definitive and complete removals.

It’s then necessary for the efforts agreed on by large companies to identify and remove illicit content to also benefit small companies, so that this content doesn’t reappear on less well-known social networks and take a parallel route. I also note that, through its Redirect project, one of the companies in the forum takes into account a specific risk, namely filter bubbles, i.e. the risk of individuals surfing the web being exposed only to content that reinforces their radicalization. That’s an absolutely essential approach; I think that the statement isn’t clear enough on this and that it’s essential for all operators to make progress in this direction.

So it must be continued, developed, in order to provide people who are being radicalized with content which, on the contrary, may raise doubts and questions in their minds. Collectively we must have a strategy tailored to our underlying goals, namely to restore common sense to those people who are being radicalized or who are vulnerable.

We must now set ourselves an initial, ambitious but in no way unattainable goal: to remove propaganda content less than an hour after it’s put online. It’s in this first hour that everything happens; in an hour the content must be identified, analysed and removed in order to limit the chances of mass redistribution. Our experience shows this is possible, and I very much hope the teams all three of us have, as well as all the team members represented here, can work with operators in a specific, concrete way, making lasting commitments.

On incitement to racial and religious hatred, we must also move forward more quickly; commitments have been made with companies at European level, as part of the code of conduct for combating illegal online hate speech. We’ve already said that if we don’t manage to achieve tangible results, it will be up to us to legislate and introduce more binding rules, because we have no choice, because that’s our responsibility to our fellow citizens, and because in my view it’s the responsibility of everyone sitting in this hall.

The second central objective of our efforts must concern civil society discourse, and that’s an issue in which the Prime Minister in particular has been involved from the outset, and I want to commend her leadership here. The anti-terrorist message mustn’t be sent only by states, and many other players are already sending it. For example, very many projects conducted by civil society have endeavoured to spread discourse on the Internet which condemns that of terrorist groups – a discourse based on facts, on our humanist values and on an enlightened reading of religion. And our role collectively is to help those independent voices to be heard, whether they be moral figures, religious leaders or young people talking to their fathers; we mustn’t interfere with the content or form of this alternative discourse, but on the other hand we can give it access to the maximum number of people. This counter-propaganda is absolutely essential, because some of the battles the jihadists win are fought over the imagination, over their ability to provide their own heroes and tell stories with which our young and less-young people identify.

So we’ve got to bring out this counter-propaganda, not with official discourse which governments have to put out, but discourse which, spread by operators, will make it possible to offer positive models and a positive environment consistent with our values. Important initiatives have been taken, but I urge the big companies represented here to develop their action further to support civil society actors in disseminating a credible, legitimate response to the propaganda of terrorist groups.

So I’d like us, dear friends, to continue, from today, doing concrete work to make further progress so that the essential commitments I was talking about, and which we once believed possible [to achieve] in the shorter term, can be translated into action as soon as possible, that additional commitments are made and that we can also draw up together public lists of operators which decide to commit to this policy, because we’ve now got to move towards a name-and-shame policy on the issue. We’ve got to reward operators which decide to play by the rules and, implicitly, denounce those which decide not to play by the rules, because in this battle against terrorist propaganda there aren’t three sides, only two. There are those people fighting for our values, freedom and the safety of our fellow citizens, and there are those who in fact decide to play into the terrorists’ hands. You’ve got to choose which side you’re on; ambiguity benefits only one side. Thank you./.

Published on 13/10/2017

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