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Reader's Digest – 12 February 2021

Our weekly review of articles on terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet, counterterrorism, digital rights, and tech policy.

Tech Against Terrorism Updates

  • We are hiring! We are looking for an open source intelligence (OSINT) analyst to join our team. For more information about the role and how to apply, see here.

  • Tech Against Terrorism has launched two consultations to gain insights on tech companies' experiences with countering terrorist use of the internet and feedback on our work in supporting the tech sector. It’s short and fully anonymous, and you can respondhere.

  • The United Nations has released its 12th report on the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) to international peace and security. In the report, Tech Against Terrorism’s Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP)’s is highlighted as an effective tool to counter the dissemination of online IS content.

  • We are sharing “TCAP Statistics” on a monthly basis in the TCAP newsletter and on a weekly basis on our Twitter account,@TCAPAlerts. Please sign up to the TCAP newsletterhere.In January 2021:
    • The TCAP has identified and verified 1,110 URLs containing terrorist content
    • The TCAP has sent 526 alerts to tech companies
    • 85% of this content is now offline

Top stories

  • Lawmakers in the European Parliament have announced that they are considering to amend the draft Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act stipulating that Big Tech companies such as Google and Facebook need to pay for news. This follows a similar move by Australia.

  • The EU Council has said it will ensure that error rates in monitoring online messaging services for sexual abusive material are kept as low as possible, as there is a risk of monitoring legal adult sexual content that harms individuals privacy under the e-privacy derogation proposed by EU Commission in September 2020.

  • A group of prominent academics and lawyers have written a letter to the Facebook Oversight Board to urge the independent body to not reinstate former US President Trump’s social media account back on the platform.

  • The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has also written a letter to the Facebook Oversight Board, stressing that the decision on whether to reinstate former US President Trump’s Twitter account should not be taken before an independent investigation has taken place.

  • Atlantic Council DFRLab has released a timeline of social media use and extremist activities in the build-up to the storming of the Capitol, on 6 January 2021.

  • Twitter has sought talks with the Indian technology minister following India’s request to take down 1,178 Twitter accounts on grounds of spreading misinformation about the farmer protests taking place in India.

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has provided a first look into its Framework for the Classification of AI Systems, which is aimed to raise awareness amongst policymakers on AI Systems.

  • The United Kingdom's terrorism threat level has been lowered from severe to substantial.

  • A thirteen-year-old boy has become the United Kingdom’s youngest person convicted of terrorist offences, including recruitment and downloading terrorist materials from the internet. The boy was a member of Feuerkrieg Division, a far-right terrorist organisation proscribed by the United Kingdom.

Tech Policy

Far-right Extremism and Terrorism

  • Understanding Canada's Recent Ban of Far-Right Extremist Groups: Dr Amarnath Amarasingam and Dr Michael Nesbitt discuss the Government of Canada’s latest additions to its list of proscribed terrorist organisations and examines the Canadian designation process. The authors express some concerns around the designation of The Proud Boys, as they argue that the listing will be hard to materialise into court proceedings, that individuals who may not be associated with the group but are seen as such will face financial difficulties that might not be just, that the basis under which Canada lists organisations as terrorists is opaque, and that these concerns in combination with listing a group of people present challenges for the future. (Amarasingam & Nesbitt, GNET, 08.02.21).

  • What Canada's Terror Laws Mean for the Proud Boys: This article by Ben Makuch discusses the addition of the Proud Boys to Canada’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations. Makuch discusses that the individual repercussions of Proud Boys members will mainly be financial, as banks and other financial institutions now have a risk of lending their services to members of a proscribed terrorist organisation. (Makuch, Vice, 08.20.21).

In September, Ben Makuch appeared on Tech Against Terrorism‘s podcast, discussing the threat of accelerationism. Give it a listen here.

Islamist Terrorism

  • Islamic Extremists Planning Rash of Attacks After Covid Curbs Lifted, Says UN: Jason Burke discusses the United Nation’s  12th report on the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) to international peace and security. It highlights that IS is capitalising on conflict-prone and volatile areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa. The article warns that IS is planning attacks when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in the West, as the group deems Western counterterrorism efforts to be weakened as a result of the pandemic. (Burke, The Guardian, 05.02.21)

  • On this topic, we are also listening to the latest episode of Janes’ podcast on monitoring violent Islamist online media with Mina al-Lami from BBC Monitoring.

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