San Francisco, California, Aug. 14, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The ICT4Peace Foundation and United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED) brought high-level government officials and a wide-array of technology companies together, including teen social network After School and other startups. The event, held August 1, 2017, in San Francisco, was the official launch of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT).
The GIFCT is an industry-led initiative announced in June 2017 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube to “formalise and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN.”
At the launch event, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Acting U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, U.S. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, and representatives from Australia, Canada, the European Union, and the United Nations expressed strong support for collaboration to prevent terrorism using technology.
Event organizers invited After School and other tech companies and startups to collaborate with government agencies and others to prevent the growth of the efforts of terrorist organizations around the world. After School’s Vice President Jeff Collins, a former U.S. Diplomat and national security official in the Obama Administration, attended to demonstrate the support of smaller, early-stage social media companies, and learn from the experiences of larger companies. Collins also attended to “share After School’s unique experiences protecting younger citizens and perspectives on how to counter illegal activity while respecting privacy and free speech.”
Collins was encouraged by the diverse group of attendees and their willingness to collaborate to protect civilians from acts of terror that are organized, promoted, or facilitated by internet-based communications technology. “The high-level representation from government, industry, and civil society showed that collectively we recognize the seriousness and urgency of addressing this issue,” noted Collins.
Attendees recognized that new and better techniques are needed to counter terrorists who have used technology effectively to learn, disseminate information, recruit and plan. According to Collins, “the discussions also highlighted the need to clearly define shared goals, as well as the underlying policy tensions around how to strike the appropriate balance between security and privacy.” Moving forward, Collins said, “stakeholders will need to wrestle with how to allow government access to data without violating our laws and norms that both encourage and protect free speech.”
Collins said After School stands ready to contribute to the initiative and can add value based on its experience in keeping its teen user base safe and because it navigates these trade-offs every day. “We have taken a lot of heat for allowing young people to speak anonymously, but we persist not just because we are passionate believers in free speech for all–including young people–but because we see the tangible benefits of providing an environment where young people can express themselves freely every day. Teens open up about things they fear sharing on other networks, from whether to ‘come out’ or how to deal with the death of a friend or family member. At the same time, like any technology, there are those who try to misuse it, and so we are diligent about monitoring data, assessing potential threats or illegal activity, and collaborating with law enforcement when necessary.”