Aug 5, 2019

Tech companies say they're ready to fight white-nationalist terror

Ina Fried, author of Login

Photo: MSNBC

Tech companies are willing to work more closely with law enforcement to fight white nationalist terrorism, but the industry is skeptical of the White House's seriousness on the issue.

Why it matters: President Trump called on social media to do better monitoring in the wake of recent mass shootings, but the companies point out the White House still has yet to sign on to recommendations made in the wake of the Christchurch shooting.

Driving the news: As part of his comments following the Dayton and El Paso shootings, President Trump called on law enforcement and social media companies to work together more closely.

  • "I am directing the Department of Justice to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike," he said.

What they're saying: While the big tech companies didn't comment on the record, they shared a consensus around several points:

  1. Many of the big platforms welcome the attention on 8chan and more extreme internet discussion forums, pointing out that extremists tend to start out there, though many do have presences in more mainstream forums.
  2. These companies are willing to work with law enforcement and believe that concerted action could yield results. One source pointed to the success the companies have had in working with law enforcement around Islamist terrorism and even more recently around election security.
  3. Despite that willingness, there is also widespread skepticism over the seriousness of the president's call, given the administration's past indifference to white supremacism. In particular, one source pointed to the fact the U.S. hasn't moved on steps recommended in the wake of the New Zealand shooting, actions signed on to by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, as well as the heads of state of most of the U.S.'s allies. The tech companies also announced a series of steps they would take on their own, in addition to any work with law enforcement.

A White House representative was not immediately available for comment.

Our thought bubble: Trump's speech condemned "white supremacism," but his call to social media companies asked them to detect "mass shooters" rather than pursue any specific group. The question is just how deeply the administration will want social media and law enforcement to go after extremists who support the president and often share his rhetoric.

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