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Rose to Facebook on Auto-Generated Terrorist Page: ‘Why is this still up?’

In back-to-back hearings, Congressman blasts industry’s anti-terrorism forum as ‘a joke’ and highlights shortfalls of social media AI in combating terrorism

Washington, June 26, 2019

Watch Rose’s line of questioning from today’s hearing HERE.

Congressman Max Rose, Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, blasted top social media companies for continued failures and the shortfalls of artificial intelligence (AI) in combating terrorism on their platforms in back-to-back Homeland Security hearings yesterday and today. Rose again highlighted that not only has Facebook’s AI failed to stop terrorist content like the Christchurch massacre shooting, but it has also created auto-generated community and business pages of terrorist groups.

“If there were terrorist content shown to be on your platforms by a public entity, would you take it down?” Rose asked Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management. “So, Ms. Bickert, why when the Whistleblower Foundation reveals that Facebook is establishing, through its AI platform, Al Qaeda community groups such as this one, a local business Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with 217 followers. I have it right here on my phone, by the Whistleblower Center. It is considered the most active of Al Qaeda’s branches or franchises that emerged due to weakening of central leadership, is a militant Islamist organization primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Why is this still up? We have every right right now to feel as if you are not taking this seriously, and by we, I mean not Congress but the American people.”

Earlier this month, Rose took to the House floor to highlight a similar auto-generated Facebook page of an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization that remained active weeks after first being reported by the Associated Press—and remained active until just this week after additional follow up from Rose.

“How is anyone supposed to think that you all take this collective action problem seriously, if you have no one working full-time [at the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism]?” Rose asked executives from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, who are all members of the forum. “This is not something technology alone can solve. This is a problem that we’re blaming the entire industry for, rightfully so. And there are the smallest of associations in this town and throughout the country that do so much more than you do and it’s insulting—it is insulting that you would not at least apologize for saying that there were no established [points of contact] prior to the Christchurch shooting. It was a joke of an association, it remains a joke of an association, and we have got to see this thing dramatically improved.”

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) is an industry-led initiative formed by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube in 2017 with the mission to curb the spread of terrorist content online. Rose pointed out, and confirmed on the record with the social media executives, that GIFCT has no full-time employees, no brick-and-mortar headquarters, and prior to the Christchurch shooting had no public points of contact. Additionally, the GIFCT’s website remains out of date, including listing last year’s chair.

Rose also chaired a Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism hearing yesterday with AI experts, including the former Chief Security Officer of Facebook, titled “Artificial Intelligence and Counterterrorism: Possibilities and Limitations.”

“We’ve been approached by these social media companies with this libertarian, technocratic elitism, that is highly, highly disturbing—and it centers around them claiming that AI can accomplish everything,” said Rose in his opening statement yesterday. “And as a consequence when we asked them, ‘How many people have you hired? How many resources have you dedicated to this problem?’ They will not give us a straight answer because again they refer to AI.”

Rose previously called on the top social media companies to provide information on their annual budgets for counterterrorism related programs, and blasted unsatisfactory responses from the companies. Additionally, Rose called on social media companies to work more closely with law enforcement to prevent the spread of terrorist content on their platforms.