Homeland Security Network Blog
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The Problem With Using AI To Fight Terrorism On Social Media
by Kalev Leetaru , Contributor
Social media has a terrorism problem. From Twitter’s famous 2015 letter to Congress that it would never restrict the right of terrorists to use its platform, to its rapid about-face in the face of public and governmental outcry, Silicon Valley has had a change of heart in how it sees its role in curbing the use of its tools by those who wish to commit violence across the world. Today Facebook released a new transparency report that emphasizes its efforts to combat terroristic use of its platform and the role AI is playing in what it claims are significant successes. Yet, that narrative of AI success has been increasingly challenged, from academic studies suggesting that not only is content not being deleted, but that other Facebook tools may actually be assisting terrorists, to a Bloomberg piece last week that demonstrates just how readily terrorist content can still be found on Facebook. Can we really rely on AI to curb terroristic use of social media?
The same year Twitter rebuffed Congress’ efforts to reign in terroristic use of social media, I was presenting to a meeting of senior Iraqi and regional military and governmental leadership when I was asked for my perspective on how to solve what was even then a rapid transformation of recruitment and propaganda tradecraft by terrorist organizations. The resulting vision I outlined of bringing the “wilderness of mirrors” approach of counter intelligence to the social media terrorism domain received considerable attention at the time and outlined the futility of the whack-a-mole approach to censoring terrorist content.
Yet, Facebook in particular has latched onto the idea of using AI to delete all terroristic content across its platform in realtime. Despite fighting tooth and nail over the past several years to avoid releasing substantive detail on its content moderation efforts, Facebook today released some basic statistics about its efforts that include a special focus on its counter-terrorism efforts. As with each major leap in action or transparency, it seems increasing government and press scrutiny of Facebook has finally paid off.