The U.K. is about to force U.S. tech giants to deal with ISIS propaganda

“We're not going to rule out taking legislative action if we need to do it.”
February 13, 2018, 12:46pm
Getty Images

The U.K. announced Tuesday it has developed a tool to snare ISIS propaganda before it goes online — and the government could force tech platforms to use it.

Westminster, which has been critical of U.S. tech companies for failing to stop the the spread of terrorist content, said the tool can spot ISIS propaganda with a 99.9 percent accuracy.

The technology is designed to show tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter that the government’s demands they “do more” to tackle online extremism are not unreasonable.


The tool was developed by London-based artificial intelligence company ASI Data Science and cost £600,000 ($830,000). It uses advanced machine learning to analyze the audio and visuals of a video to determine whether it’s ISIS propaganda.

“The purpose of these videos is to incite violence in our communities, recruit people to their cause, and attempt to spread fear in our society,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in a statement. “We know that automatic technology like this, can heavily disrupt the terrorists' actions, as well as prevent people from ever being exposed to these horrific images.”

The company claims the tool can automatically detect 94 percent is ISIS propaganda with a near-perfect accuracy. From a random sample of one million videos uploaded to the internet, only 50 would require additional human review, the company claimed.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny in the U.K. for failing to adequately address the issue of extremist propaganda.

While a Home Office spokesperson told VICE News that technology companies would not be compelled to use the new tool, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the BBC otherwise.

“We're not going to rule out taking legislative action if we need to do it,” she said.

The Home Office has already spoken to tech companies about the tool, and some have suggested they will use it.

The tool is likely to appeal to smaller platforms that don’t have the resources to develop their own, while Facebook and Google are already pursuing their own solutions to the issue.


Facebook and Google were not immediately available to comment on the development. Twitter said it had nothing to share outside of its latest transparency report.

ISIS is actively seeking alternative communication methods to spread their message; in 2017 the group used 400 separate services to disseminate its message. Research by the Home Office found that ISIS used 145 new platforms in the six months to the end of 2017, that had never been used before.

Rudd, currently in the U.S., is holding meetings with several Silicon Valley companies to discuss tackling terrorist content. She will also meet with her counterpart, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, to discuss an ongoing collaboration between the U.S. and U.K. in dealing with online hate.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd delivers her keynote speech on the third day of the Conservative Party annual conference at the Manchester Central Convention Centre in Manchester on October 3, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)