BIG NAME TECH FIRMS have pledged will do more to tackle extremist content, but appear to have forced the government to back down in their bid to restrict encryption.
Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft have met with the UK government's latest tech expert, Home Secretary Amber Rudd. We knew this was coming, with the Open Rights Group (ORG) this week asking for clarity on what the heck this is all about, how it came to be so quickly, and what sort of things will be discussed.
ORG has got what it asked for, sort of, as the firms have put out a joint statement following the meeting, in which they say they will "encourage the further development of technical tools to identify and remove terrorist propaganda".
"Companies apply unique content policies and have developed - and continue to develop - techniques appropriate for or unique to their own platforms.
"Nonetheless, there is a significant opportunity to share the knowledge gained in these varied efforts to develop innovative solutions."
The companies also said that they explore the creation of a new forum to increase collaboration within the industry.
"Companies increasingly share best practices with one another, and we have seen that sharing lessons learned across sectors can improve our collective response to this challenge."
They out three main methods for progress: developing better tools to automatically identify and remove terrorist propaganda; helping smaller tech companies learn from others about such methods, and supporting ways to "promote alternative and counter-narratives".
However, no mention was made of restricting encryption, and in a statement but out by the Rudd, she didn't mention requiring tech firms to provide back doors in their services, despite having previously said that WhatsApp being encrypted was wrong and that the police should have the golden key to its shitty content.
"My starting point is pretty straightforward. I don't think that people who want to do us harm should be able to use the internet or social media to do so. I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to stop this," she said.
"It was a useful discussion and I'm glad to see that progress has been made.
"We focused on the issue of access to terrorist propaganda online and the very real and evolving threat it poses.
"I said I wanted to see this tackled head-on and I welcome the commitment from the key players to set up a cross-industry forum that will help to do this.
"In taking forward this work I'd like to see the industry to go further and faster in not only removing online terrorist content but stopping it going up in the first place. I'd also like to see more support for smaller and emerging platforms to do this as well, so they can no longer be seen as an alternative shop floor by those who want to do us harm."
This back down isn't all that surprising, not least because of the criticism that Rudd has received since her telly appearance on Sunday.
Noah Stride, a systems administrator for the Pirate Party UK, said: "When building a back-door into any system, you inherently introduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious entities such as hackers. These hackers could be state-sponsored individuals, or a group of terrorists themselves. It is entirely possible that malicious actors could use these vulnerabilities to gather users' information and leak, sell or even exploit it.
"In short, whilst Rudd makes the argument that weakening encryption might increase national security, it would empirically end up achieving the complete opposite." µ
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