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Do Tech Companies Give Terrorists a 'Safe Space'?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 06, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Even as U.S.-backed forces launched an attack on ISIS headquarters in Syria, America's social media giants fought back claims they provide a "safe space" for terrorists online.

Facebook, Google, and Twitter insisted they work closely with government to flush out those who push extremist content, including terrorists like those who recently attacked on London Bridge. Prime Minister Theresa May had complained that terrorists had found a "safe space" to spread their message online and proposed more regulation of internet service providers.

The Internet lashed back, but it was not the first time social media has been at the center of the controversy. According to reports, social media is a breeding ground for terrorist propaganda.

Propaganda Place

"So far, digital propaganda of this sort has helped motivate more than 30,000 people to turn their backs on everything they've ever known and journey thousands of miles into dangerous lands, where they've been told a paradise awaits," Brendan Koerner reported for Wired last year.

In the United States, authorities have tried to fight fire with fire. John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice, called on the youngest social media users.

"We've got to get the message out: Terrorists are using social media to target young kids," he said.

Carlin said ISIS and others use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach isolated young people. He said terrorists are targeting tens of thousands of teens.

Do Not Click Here

Simon Milner, policy director for Facebook, said his company bans people who engage in terrorist activity or express support for terrorism. Facebook uses technology and human editors to remove such content, and recently announced plans to hire 3,000 more humans to monitor content.

Twitter's policy leader, Nick Pickles, defended his company as well. "Terrorist content has no place on Twitter," he said. Google issued a similar statement, echoing the social media concerns about more regulation.

"We are committed to working in partnership with the government and NGOs to tackle these challenging and complex problems, and share the government's commitment to ensuring terrorists do not have a voice online," it said.

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