Earlier this week, Google announced plans to limit the number of videos on their site used to spread terrorist propaganda and recruit new followers. Facebook has now followed suit with a Online Civil Courage Initiative launched in England, France, and Germany.
While Facebook already takes down content that violates its standards, and will step up those efforts, this plan differs in that it is informational in nature. The goal is to educate organizations on how to spot and respond to material that is extremist.
It is felt that the proliferation of online terrorist videos has been a factor in both encouraging people to join groups like ISIS and carry out attacks for them. While the company’s stance is certainly welcome, it is apparently at least partially the result of prodding. Facebook and other social media sites have been unsuccessfully sued in the past by individuals who feel that they are providing a platform for terrorist groups. Germany now has plans to sue these same companies for not removing such content, though concern has been expressed that this approach strays too far into censorship.
The Online Civil Courage Initiative will use a collaborative approach with users encouraged to head over to the OCCI pages to share ideas. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg issued the following statement on the plan:
“The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester — like violence anywhere — are absolutely heartbreaking. No-one should have to live in fear of terrorism — and we all have a part to play in stopping violent extremism from spreading. We know we have more to do — but through our platform, our partners and our community we will continue to learn to keep violence and extremism off Facebook.”
It seems like a worthy undertaking and a nice extension to their efforts at curtailing the number of online propaganda videos. There is always a fine line between this sort of initiative and the preservation of free speech; hopefully, Facebook will navigate that effectively.