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Tech Against Terrorism launches guidelines on transparency reporting

Tech Against Terrorism is delighted to launch the Tech Against Terrorism Guidelines on transparency reporting on online counterterrorism efforts. The Guidelines are designed to improve government and tech platform transparency and accountability around their online counterterrorism activities. The full Guidelines can be accessed here: https://transparency.techagainstterrorism.org

The Guidelines provide reporting baselines for both platforms and governments with a focus on meaningfulness, transparency as a process, and smaller tech company capacity. 

Adam Hadley, Director at Tech Against Terrorism, said: 

“Transparency is critical to ensuring both governments and companies remain accountable to the public. Transparency reporting provides insights into the extent to which human rights and fundamental freedoms – such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy – are respected across the internet. Transparency should therefore be considered a key aspect of counterterrorism online.” 

Transparency reporting has been a core part of Tech Against Terrorism’s support for the tech sector since 2017, including in our Mentorship Programme: as of July 2021, four members of Tech Against Terrorism’s Mentorship Programme have published their first transparency report, including ASKfm and JustPaste.it. 

In conjunction with Tech Against Terrorism’s Knowledge Sharing Platform, we hope that the Guidelines will serve as a starting point for increased transparency from governments and companies alike, providing advice on best practice, core principles and key metrics to improve overall accountability.

Background to the Guidelines 

Tech companies and governments both play an active role in countering terrorism online. Larger tech companies have invested significant resources in staff and tools to identify and and disrupt terrorist activity. Smaller tech companies, where a majority of terrorist exploitation currently occurs, are to the best of their abilities also taking action against this threat. On the government side, some governments submit legal orders compelling companies to remove material based on local laws. Others have established law enforcement teams that monitor the web for terrorist content and report it to platforms. Several governments and intergovernmental organisations have also set up voluntary collaboration frameworks aimed at tackling terrorist activity online.  

Transparency is vital to ensure that governments and the tech industry are accountable to the public and internet users. Transparency reporting provides insight on to what extent fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy are respected when tackling terrorism across the internet. It can also encourage and recognise meaningful action from tech companies in tackling terrorist use of the internet, and provide crucial insight on this threat. Transparency should therefore be considered as a key component of counterterrorism online, and transparency reporting has been a core part of Tech Against Terrorism’s support for the tech sector since 2017, including in the Mentorship Programme.   

Larger tech platforms have made significant strides and now produce detailed transparency reports on their activities to tackle terrorist exploitation of their services. Smaller tech platforms often want to be transparent but are in need of support to produce reports. We regret that no government, to our knowledge, seems to have published meaningful transparency reports on their actioning requests and referrals to tech companies.   

The Tech Against Terrorism Guidelines have been developed based on our practical experience of supporting smaller tech companies. We have also convened a closed consultation process for tech companies, global civil society partners, and governments. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this process and informed the development of the Guidelines. We will continue to review the Guidelines on a regular basis and improve as necessary. 

See the Guidelines in full here: https://transparency.techagainstterrorism.org