News & Politics

Terrifying: The Big Tech Overlords Target Right-Wing 'Terrorism'

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Back in 2017, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube founded the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). GIFCT shares terrorism data among Big Tech companies, enabling them to flag and remove terrorist content. On Monday, GIFCT announced that it significantly expanded the types of extremist content in its database, aiming to crack down on material from white supremacists and far-right militias. However, the research behind the database cites the far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and brands one of the SPLC’s conservative targets a “violent extremist” group.

GIFCT’s database has focused on videos and images from terrorist groups on a United Nations list, largely focused on content from radical Islamist groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, Reuters reported. Yet on Monday, the forum announced that it would add white supremacist attacker manifestos and other publications and links flagged by the U.N. initiative Tech Against Terrorism. GIFCT will use URLs and PDFs from more groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, and neo-Nazis.

Using GIFCT, the Big Tech companies share “perceptual hashes,” unique numerical representations of original pieces of content that have been removed from their services.

On Monday, GIFCT announced that it would include three new hashed categories:

  1. Manifestos from terrorist and violent extremist attackers in PDF form;
  2. Terrorist publications that use specific branding and logos for the organization in PDF form; and
  3. URLs identified by Tech Against Terrorism as where specific terrorist content exists that are often shared and amplified on other platforms

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This expansion came after GIFCT spent six months engaging “a wide range of experts on expanding the reach and impact of our hash-sharing database’s taxonomy in order to respond to terrorist content online across the ideological spectrum.”

“We believe that our work must be complementary and mutually-reinforced with human rights and fundamental freedoms, starting with the material we recognize as terrorist content online,” the Big Tech organization declared. “This six-month project resulted in a compilation report from international experts that will help shape and inform our strategy for thoughtful, deliberate, and practical broadening of our taxonomy framework over time.”

Yet it appears GIFCT’s team of “experts” included the scandal-plagued Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which smears mainstream conservative and Christian organizations as “hate groups,” putting them on a “hate map” with the Ku Klux Klan. Former employees have described the “hate map” as a con to bilk donors by exaggerating hate. An attempted terrorist opened fire at the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters in Washington, D.C., attempting to kill everyone in the building and smear a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich into the faces of his victims. He told the FBI he used the SPLC’s “hate map” to target FRC.

Despite this history, the GIFCT report justifying the new policy references the SPLC’s reporting on the Oath Keepers and notes the SPLC’s “hate group” list as an option for a list of terrorist organizations. The report notes the difficulty of “maintaining a list of terrorist and violent extremist actors that is objective, global in scope, and updated in real time,” and notes that “no such expanded designation list is currently available, although there are a number of non-governmental lists, such as those compiled by… civil society actors like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Considering the Oath Keepers’ involvement in the Capitol riot — and the involvement of other organizations the SPLC targets, such as the Proud Boys — it may make sense for GIFCT to target this group. However, the GIFCT list of organizations promoting “violent extremism” includes another organization on the SPLC’s “hate group” list that has no connection with the Capitol riot.

Among examples of “violent extremism,” alongside Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and antifa, the GIFCT report lists JihadWatch, a non-profit dedicated to combatting radical Islam. JihadWatch, run by PJ Media’s Robert Spencer, does not advocate violence in any way. Rather, it highlights the disturbing history of Islam and the connections between that history and the terrorist motivations of groups like the Islamic State.

Big Tech SPLC JihadWatch GIFCT
GIFCT report screenshot.

The presence of the SPLC in GIFCT’s report, and the suggestion that JihadWatch is a kind of “violent extremist” group do not bode well for conservatives on the internet.

GIFCT founders Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube have access to the list, as do Airbnb, Amazon, Discord, Dropbox, Instagram, Just Paste It, LinkedIn, Mailchimp, Mega, Pinterest, Tumblr, WhatsApp, and WordPress.

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The GIFCT announcement seems particularly ominous given recent moves in the Biden administration and among Big Tech companies. President Biden has fought to root out “extremism” in the military and “domestic terrorism” in America, efforts that seem targeted at conservatives. Facebook has started its own campaign against “extremism,” eerily echoing the administration.

Conservatives need to remain on their guard, and we need to further expose the Southern Poverty Law Center. I wrote a book, Making Hate Pay, just for that purpose.