By Joseph Menn and Dustin Volz SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some of the web’s biggest destinations for watching videos have quietly started using automation to remove extremist content from their sites, according to two people familiar with the process. The move is a major step forward for internet companies that are eager to eradicate violent propaganda from their sites and are under pressure to do so from governments around the world as attacks by extremists proliferate, from Syria to Belgium and the United States. YouTube and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, the sources said. The technology was originally developed to identify and remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for "hashes," a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly. Such a system would catch attempts to repost content already identified as unacceptable, but would not automatically block videos that have not been seen before. The companies would not confirm that they are using the method or talk about how it might be employed, but numerous people familiar with the technology said that posted videos could be checked against a database of banned content to identify new postings of, say, a beheading or a lecture inciting violence. The two sources would not discuss how much human work goes into reviewing videos identified as matches or near-matches by the technology. They also would not say how videos in the databases were initially identified as extremist. Use of the new technology is likely to be refined over time as internet companies continue to discuss the issue internally and with competitors and other interested parties. In late April, amid pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama and other U.S. and European leaders concerned about online radicalization, internet companies including Alphabet Inc's YouTube, Twitter Inc, Facebook Inc and CloudFlare held a call to discuss options, including a content-blocking system put forward by the private Counter Extremism Project, according to one person on the call and three who were briefed on what was discussed. The discussions underscored the central but difficult role some of the world's most influential companies now play in addressing issues such as terrorism, free speech and the lines between government and corporate authority. None of the companies at this point has embraced the anti-extremist group's system, and they have typically been wary of outside intervention in how their sites should be policed. “It’s a little bit different than copyright or child pornography, where things are very clearly illegal,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. Extremist content exists on a spectrum, Hughes said, and different web companies draw the line in different places. Most have relied until now mainly on users to flag content that violates their terms of service, and many still do. Flagged material is then individually reviewed by human editors who delete postings found to be in violation. The companies now using automation are not publicly discussing it, two sources said, in part out of concern that terrorists might learn how to manipulate their systems or that repressive regimes might insist the technology be used to censor opponents. “There's no upside in these companies talking about it,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive of content distribution company CloudFlare. “Why would they brag about censorship?” The two people familiar with the still-evolving industry practice confirmed it to Reuters after the Counter Extremism Project publicly described its content-blocking system for the first time last week and urged the big internet companies to adopt it. WARY OF OUTSIDE SOLUTION The April call was led by Facebook's head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, sources with knowledge of the call said. On it, Facebook presented options for discussion, according to one participant, including the one proposed by the non-profit Counter Extremism Project. The anti-extremism group was founded by, among others, Frances Townsend, who advised former president George W. Bush on homeland security, and Mark Wallace, who was deputy campaign manager for the Bush 2004 re-election campaign. Three sources with knowledge of the April call said that companies expressed wariness of letting an outside group decide what defined unacceptable content. Other alternatives raised on the call included establishing a new industry-controlled nonprofit or expanding an existing industry-controlled nonprofit. All the options discussed involved hashing technology. The model for an industry-funded organization might be the nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which identifies known child pornography images using a system known as PhotoDNA. The system is licensed for free by Microsoft Corp. Microsoft announced in May it was providing funding and technical support to Dartmouth College computer scientist Hany Farid, who works with the Counter Extremism Project and helped develop PhotoDNA, "to develop a technology to help stakeholders identify copies of patently terrorist content." Facebook’s Bickert agreed with some of the concerns voiced during the call about the Counter Extremism Project's proposal, two people familiar with the events said. She declined to comment publicly on the call or on Facebook's efforts, except to note in a statement that Facebook is “exploring with others in industry ways we can collaboratively work to remove content that violates our policies against terrorism.” In recent weeks, one source said, Facebook has sent out a survey to other companies soliciting their opinions on different options for industry collaboration on the issue. William Fitzgerald, a spokesman for Alphabet's Google unit, which owns YouTube, also declined to comment on the call or about the company's automated efforts to police content. A Twitter spokesman said the company was still evaluating the Counter Extremism Project's proposal and had "not yet taken a position." A former Google employee said people there had long debated what else besides thwarting copyright violations or sharing revenue with creators the company should do with its Content ID system. Google's system for content-matching is older and far more sophisticated than Facebook's, according to people familiar with both. Lisa Monaco, senior adviser to the U.S. president on counterterrorism, said in a statement that the White House welcomed initiatives that seek to help companies “better respond to the threat posed by terrorists’ activities online. (Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco and Dustin Volz in Washington; Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Jim Finkle; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Bill Rigby)
- Yahoo News
If it takes a miracle for Trump to stay in office, evangelicals like Michele Bachmann are fine with that
As the inevitability of President Trump’s loss became apparent even to his acolyte Kellyanne Conway in recent days, his supporters increasingly pinned their hopes for a second term on a last-ditch appeal, not to the Supreme Court, but to the one power that can outvote it: God.
- The Independent
Educator says she wants to keep on teaching when Joe Biden becomes president
- Associated Press
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has named Tina Flournoy, a veteran Democratic strategist and aide to the Clintons, as her chief of staff, the transition team announced Thursday. Flournoy's appointment as Harris' top staffer adds to a team of advisers led by Black women. Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian heritage, is the nation's first female vice president.
Tokyo prosecutors are considering a summary indictment of two officials in former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office for alleged violation of political funding laws, the daily Asahi reported on Friday. Prosecutors believe the officials failed to report income and expenditures totalling some 30 million yen ($289,000) related to cherry blossom viewing parties held for Abe supporters when he was in office, the Asahi report said. Under Japanese law, a summary indictment would mean the officials avoid a full court trial process.
- Yahoo News 360
Media reports suggest President Trump is eyeing another bid for the White House in four years. Will Trump 2024 become a reality?
- The Independent
Young Delaware senator’s devastating losses shaped life and career in Washington
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- The Week
There appears to be growing support among Senate Republicans for a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill introduced earlier this week, reports The Washington Post.The $908 billion package — championed by moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (D-Maine), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — is in between what Democratic leadership is pushing for and what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested. The moderates suggested an unemployment boost and money for state governments, but no stimulus checks.While McConnell on Thursday continued to resist the bipartisan bill, pushing instead for his version, which the White House has endorsed, other Republican senators got on board with the package. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) signaled they were open to the bipartisan bill.Democratic leaders said they believed the $908 billion package should be the basis for negotiations. Several Republicans echoed that, saying it wasn't exactly what they wanted but it made for a good starting point.McConnell didn't comment directly on the bipartisan proposal, but instead urged lawmakers to pull the trigger on his version, which he called "a serious and highly targeted relief proposal including elements which we know the president is ready and willing to sign into law."More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. The Donald goes down to Georgia
- USA TODAY
Five executions are scheduled before Joe Biden, who opposes capital punishment, takes office. Ninety current and former law officials want a halt.
- Associated Press
The United Nations' human rights chief lamented a deteriorating situation in Belarus and said Friday that reported beatings of protesters by security forces may in some cases amount to torture. Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Human Rights Council there has been no improvement since a September debate about Belarus and “recent weeks have seen continued deterioration, particularly with respect to the right of peaceful assembly.”
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- The Telegraph
Michel Barnier is accustomed to being universally praised on his regular tours of the EU's capitals to preach the gospel against Brexit. On Tuesday, he was in the unfamiliar position of coming under friendly fire for the first time in three years as the EU's chief negotiator. It was an uncomfortable moment for Mr Barnier, who was headquartered at the Hotel Conrad in Westminster and is enmeshed in intensive Brexit negotiations with his UK counterpart David Frost. Expectation had been building that a trade agreement with Britain was close and a damaging no deal avoided. A fitting legacy for a politician who had dedicated decades of service to the EU was in Mr Barnier's grasp. He was far from the poisonous briefings in Brussels that were going on behind his back – but bad news travels fast. The chief negotiator was going soft on Britain, EU diplomats in the Belgian capital sniped. He risked giving too much away.
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden said when it comes to the Department of Justice, he is "not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do."Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, and the discussion turned to reports that President Trump is contemplating preemptively pardoning his adult children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Biden said this "concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks [at] us as a nation of laws and justice."Biden promised that he is "not going to be saying, 'Go prosecute A, B, or C,' I'm not going to be telling them. That's not the role, it's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."Harris, who once served as California's attorney general, added that the administration will assume that "any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on the law, it should not be influence by politics, period."More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. The Donald goes down to Georgia
- Associated Press
Turkey’s recent moves to de-escalate a clash with Greece and Cyprus over east Mediterranean energy reserves are “unconvincing” and European Union leaders need to take action that will prompt Ankara to heed international law, Greece’s foreign minister said on Friday. Nikos Dendias said Turkey opted not to seize an opportunity that European Union leaders offered it in October to ease tensions in the region so that the 27-member bloc could start reshaping its fraught relations with Ankara.
A Chinese official's tweet of an image of an Australian soldier that sparked a furious reaction from Canberra was amplified across social media by unusual accounts, of which half were likely fake, an Israeli cybersecurity firm and Australian experts said. The digitally altered image of an Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child was tweeted by China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday. Twitter declined Australia's request to remove the tweet.
The "ambitious" target for 2030 would see the UK move faster than any major economy, the PM says.
- Yahoo News Video
AG Bill Barr said DOJ found no evidence of voter fraud, and now Trump won't say if he has confidence in him
While speaking to the press in the Oval Office on Thursday, President Trump hedged on saying if he had confidence in Attorney General William Barr. “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now," Trump said. "They should be looking at all this voter fraud.” Barr said in a recent interview that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
- The Telegraph
Former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui has announced he has chosen to go into exile as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on high-profile figures of the former British colony’s pro-democracy movement. Mr Hui, 38, initially fled to Denmark this week where he was joined by his family, but he said he would make his way to the UK to continue his pro-democratic activities. He joins Nathan Law, a prominent Hong Kong human rights activist now based in London, and a growing diaspora of dissidents who are continuing to advocate for more international pressure on China to allow greater rights and freedoms in the Asian financial hub. “My personal determination is that my exile will not be a migration. My only home is Hong Kong which is why I will not apply for asylum in any country,” said Mr Hui, adding that he would make it his “life mission” to fight for the city’s freedom. “There is no word to explain my pain and it’s hard to hold back tears,” he said as he announced his decision via Facebook. Mr Hui also revealed he had resigned from the opposition Democratic Party of Hong Kong. Last month he was one of 15 legislators who quit the city’s legislative council in protest at Beijing’s decision to oust four colleagues over their political views.
- The Week
President Trump reportedly needs no encouragement to start praising the dangerous, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.The most pressing matter for federal Republicans right now is the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia, which will determine control of the body. But in a meeting with advisers and top Senate Republicans about that matter, Trump totally derailed the conversation by bringing up QAnon, people familiar with the discussion tell The Washington Post.Trump is reportedly not thrilled with Georgia and that fact that it flipped for President-elect Joe Biden, and is publicly upset with Republican leaders in the state who haven't somehow overturned the election for him. So even though Republican advisers say Trump's help is "key to convincing his die-hard supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue" in the January runoff election, the president isn't thrilled about doing so, the Post reports. "Advisers say he has been frustrated at how some GOP senators have criticized him," leading Trump to appear "disinterested" when discussing Senate campaign plans, the Post continues.That was clear in a recent meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), and other aides. As they discussed Georgia's Senate races, Trump brought up the QAnon-supporting soon-to-be congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene. Trump mispronounced the name of the group as "Q-an-uhn," and then said supporters of the theory that purports Democrats are a cannibalistic, pedophilic cabal "basically believe in good government," people familiar tell the Post. Everyone reportedly went silent until White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows mentioned he had "never heard it described that way," the Post reports.Trump has been asked to denounce QAnon several times, but usually gives the theory his tacit approval instead.More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. The Donald goes down to Georgia