Today, members of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) are meeting with government leaders, led by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron at the United Nations General Assembly to share progress on the steps taken to implement the Christchurch Call to Action. At this important convening, GIFCT is announcing it will become an independent organization led by an Executive Director and supported by dedicated technology, counterterrorism and operations teams. Evolving and institutionalizing GIFCT’s structure from a consortium of member companies will build on our early achievements and deepen industry collaboration with experts, partners and government stakeholders – all in an effort to thwart increasingly sophisticated efforts by terrorists and violent extremists to abuse digital platforms.
The new, independent GIFCT will integrate its existing work to develop technology, cultivate strong corporate policies and sponsor research with efforts to fulfill commitments in the nine-point action plan released after the Christchurch Call. More importantly, it will institutionalize the spirit of shared purpose that the Call represents. GIFCT has made significant achievements since it was founded in 2017, and worked closely with a range of governments, particularly under the auspices of the European Union Internet Forum, but the horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch and the extraordinary virality of the attacker’s video online illustrated the need to do even more. We believe these next steps are best executed within an industry-led framework with deep input from both civil society and governments.
Progress on Our Commitments to the Christchurch Call to Action
In addition to restructuring GIFCT to carry collaboration forward, we have made significant progress on some of the Christchurch Call’s core initiatives:
- Introduced industry’s Content Incident Protocol to guide a collaborated response amongst GIFCT members to terrorist attacks like we saw in Christchurch and combat the spread of terrorist content across the platforms
- Published a cross-platform, countering violent extremism toolkit, developed with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, to help civil society organizations build online campaigns that challenge extremist ideologies, while prioritizing safety
- Released algorithms for our hashing technology to help additional companies build their capacity to use and contribute to the hash sharing consortium
- Published the first GIFCT Transparency Report to shine a light on our efforts as an industry
Adopting a New Vision for an Independent Institution
As an independent organization, GIFCT will adopt a new mission statement: “Prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms” to guide its work across four foundational goals:
- Empower a broad range of technology companies, independently and collectively, with processes and tools to prevent and respond to abuse of their platforms by terrorists and violent extremists.
- Enable multi-stakeholder engagement around terrorist and violent extremist misuse of the Internet and encourage stakeholders to meet key commitments consistent with the GIFCT mission.
- Promote civil dialogue online and empower efforts to direct positive alternatives to the messages of terrorists and violent extremists.
- Advance broad understanding of terrorist and violent extremist operations and their evolution, including the intersection of online and offline activities.
GIFCT was formally established by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube with the objective of disrupting terrorist abuse on their respective platforms. Since then, the consortium has grown with new global technology companies joining GIFCT, and now Amazon, LinkedIn and WhatsApp are joining. An even broader group collaborates closely on critical initiatives focused on tech innovation, knowledge-sharing and research. Most recently, we reached our 2019 goal of collectively contributing more than 200,000 hashes, or unique digital fingerprints, of known terrorist content into our shared database, enabling each of us to quickly identify and take action on potential terrorist content on our respective platforms.
Establishing the Structure for an Independent Institution
The updated GIFCT will be led by an independent Executive Director, who will be responsible for leading and coordinating all operations, including core management, program implementation and fundraising, and engagement with the Operational Board and Advisory Committee.
GIFCT’s efforts will be organized into three key pillars of work:
- “Prevent” to equip digital platforms and civil society groups with awareness, knowledge and tools, including technology, to develop sustainable programs in their core business operations to disrupt terrorist and violent extremist activity online.
- “Respond” will develop tools and capacity, including via regular multi-stakeholder exercises, for platforms to cooperate with one another and with other stakeholders to mitigate the impact of a terrorist or violent extremist attack.
- “Learn” will empower researchers to study terrorism and counterterrorism, including creating and evaluating best practices for multi-stakeholder cooperation and preventing abuse of digital platforms.
GIFCT will establish working groups in order to engage stakeholders from government and civil society focused on specific projects and advise GIFCT’s efforts. These working groups will have the ability to coordinate multistakeholder funding for specific programmatic efforts supported by GIFCT. Initial working groups are expected to address topics such as positive interventions with respect to radicalization, algorithmic outcomes, improving the multistakeholder Crisis Response Protocol and legal challenges to data sharing.
GIFCT governance will reside with the industry-led Operating Board, which will work closely with a multistakeholder Independent Advisory Committee, and a broad Multi-stakeholder Forum. The Independent Advisory Committee will be chaired by a non-governmental representative, and include members from civil society, government, and inter-governmental entities. So far, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the European Commission have signed on to the Advisory Committee and we look forward to sharing additional members, including advocacy groups, human rights specialists, foundations, researchers and technical experts soon. The Multistakeholder Forum is designed as a broader community of dedicated parties interested in regular updates from the GIFCT and engaging in events designed to funnel broad feedback to the industry Operating Board and Executive Director. Here is more information about the new structure.
Since its founding in 2017, GIFCT has focused its efforts on innovative and emerging technology solutions, knowledge sharing and supporting research into terrorists’ use of digital platforms. We are grateful for the support of, and collaboration with, our member companies, governments and civil society organizations that share our commitment to prevent and disrupt terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting technology. Most recently, we conducted 11 separate workshops in partnership with our UN CTED backed partner Tech Against Terrorism to facilitate outreach, knowledge sharing, and technology capacity building with smaller tech platforms, government and non-governmental organizations and academic experts. We also invested in the Global Research Network on Terrorism and Technology (GRNTT) to develop research and policy recommendations designed to prevent terrorist exploitation of technology. But there’s more to do. We are confident that this new chapter will provide greater resources and capacity for our collective long-term success and we look forward to sharing further progress.