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Microsoft Intensifies Fight Against Terrorism

Microsoft has detailed some of the steps it is taking to combat terrorism, which include removing terrorist content from its services and partnering with others to meet the challenges presented by terrorists’ use of the Internet.

The Internet has proven to be a great channel for terrorist groups to promote violence and to recruit more people for their causes, and Microsoft is one of the tech companies to react to this issue. Evolving technology is demanding new measures to combat terrorism, and Microsoft notes that the Internet has already shown that it can be used for the worst reasons imaginable.

In a blog post, Microsoft explains that its services are meant to empower people, not contribute to terrible acts, but that the company is also focused on promoting values such as privacy, freedom of expression and the right to access information. Thus, one of the main changes that the company made to its services involves the removal of terrorist content from its services, including hosting services.

The announcement comes roughly one week after Microsoft told the United Nations that tech companies could do more to combat digital terror. “There is no silver bullet that will stop terrorist use of the Internet,” Microsoft's vice president Steven Crown told a special Security Council debate on counter-terrorism.

“We are amending our terms of use – which already prohibit hate speech and advocacy of violence against others – to specifically prohibit the posting of terrorist content on our hosted consumer services,” the company now says.

The move falls in line with Twitter’s aggressive policy towards accounts that engage in abusive behavior, including those promoting violent threats, harassment, and hateful conduct. In February, Twitter announced that it is suspending accounts that promote terrorism and violence, which basically means that, the same as Microsoft, it is removing terrorist-related content from its platform.

In its announcement, Microsoft also provided details on what it considers to be terrorist content: mainly content that “depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups.” This includes material posted in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List.

The company will continue its “notice-and-takedown” process for the removal of prohibited, including terrorist, content, and will also focus on promoting free expression on Bing. Basically, Microsoft says that it will strive to make sure that Bing is “an unbiased information and action tool, presenting links to all relevant information available on the Internet.”

The tech giant will “remove links to terrorist-related content from Bing only when that takedown is required of search providers under local law.” Microsoft also notes that it will try to help users stay informed when they might be exposed to terrorist content and that it will work with “nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to display public service announcements with links to positive messaging and alternative narratives for some search queries for terrorist material.”

In addition to removing terrorist content from its services, Microsoft is planning new partnerships that would help it better address the issue of terrorism. One of these is with Professor Hany Farid of Dartmouth College, who will receive funding and technical support to develop the technology necessary to stop the spread of known terrorist material by proactively flagging content that contains known terrorist images, video and audio.

Additionally, Microsoft says it plans on investing in public-private partnerships to bring together experts and leaders from different backgrounds and perspectives, and that it is also focused on enhancing education and understanding, especially among young people.

“As we look at additional measures we can take, our actions will always be consistent with the rule of law and with our belief in our users’ rights to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information. We will continue to work closely and transparently with a wide range of organizations to build on and strengthen these efforts, and we look forward to joining additional initiatives that involve organizations from both the public and private sectors in the coming months,” Microsoft concluded.

Related: Microsoft Tells UN More Can be Done to Combat Digital Terror

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