Tech giants to reveal efforts to thwart extremists

Hands on laptop with alert symbol. | Newsreel
Leading tech companies need to show what they are doing to prevent extremist content being shared. | iStock

Google, Meta, Twitter/X, WhatsApp, Telegram and Reddit have been issue legal notices to report on steps they are taking to protect Australians from terrorist and violent extremist material and activity.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the notices required the companies to answer a series of detailed questions about how they were tackling the issue.

Ms Inman Grant said eSafety continued to receive reports about perpetrator-produced material from terror attacks, including the 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch, that are reshared on mainstream platforms.

“We remain concerned about how extremists weaponise technology like live-streaming, algorithms and recommender systems and other features to promote or share this hugely harmful material,” she said.

“We are also concerned by reports that terrorists and violent extremists are moving to capitalise on the emergence of generative AI and are experimenting with ways this new technology can be misused to cause harm.

Earlier this month the UN-backed Tech against Terrorism reported it had identified users of an Islamic State forum comparing the attributes of Google’s Gemini, ChatGPT, and Microsoft’s Copilot.

“The tech companies that provide these services have a responsibility to ensure that these features and their services cannot be exploited to perpetrate such harm and that’s why we are sending these notices to get a look under the hood at what they are and are not doing,” Ms Inman Grant said.

According to a recent OECD report, Telegram is the number one ranked mainstream platform when it comes to the prevalence of terrorist and violent extremist material, with Google’s YouTube ranked second and Twitter/X third.  The Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram round out the top five.

WhatsApp is ranked 8th while reports have confirmed the Buffalo shooter’s ‘manifesto’ cited Reddit as the service that played a role in his radicalisation towards violent white supremacist extremism.

“It’s no coincidence we have chosen these companies to send notices to as there is evidence that their services are exploited by terrorists and violent extremists. We want to know why this is and what they are doing to tackle the issue,” Ms Inman Grant said.

The six companies will have until May 7 to provide responses.