How does GIFCT define terrorism and violent extremism?
Our goal is to prevent terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of digital platforms. Recognizing there is no universally agreed-upon definition of terrorism, GIFCT works to facilitate broad dialogue and analysis of how terrorism and violent extremism manifests across the ideological spectrum. Through GIFCT Working Groups, supporting academic research through GNET, and within the workshops and events we host, we offer information and insights about how online activity, ideological trends, current events, and other factors are contributing to terrorism and violent extremism throughout the globe.
However, when developing and operating cross-platform tools, such as the GIFCT hash-sharing database, that help tech companies identify and when applicable, take action on content on their platforms, we’ve established refined parameters and a definitional framework for what constitutes terrorist and violent extremist content. Hashes of terrorist and violent extremist content that qualify to be put in the hash-sharing database currently must meet a taxonomy that recognizes the original producers of the content as well as the type of content and severity for harm. Learn more about that taxonomy here.
What is the hash-sharing database?
The GIFCT hash-sharing database is the safe and secure industry database of “perceptual hashes” of known terrorist content as defined by GIFCT’s hash-sharing database taxonomy. This database is currently the largest cross-platform technical tool supported by GIFCT in service of its tech company members. Content found by a member company is “hashed” in its raw form, ensuring there is no link to any source original platform or user data. Hashes appear as a numerical representation of the original content, which means they cannot be easily reverse engineered to recreate the content. Each company that is part of the hash-sharing database determines its use of and engagement with the database, depending on (among other things) their own terms of service, how their platform operates, and how they utilize technical and human resources. GIFCT is neither a tech company nor a social media platform, and we do not own or store any source data or personally identifiable information of any users associated with member platforms. Learn more about the hash-sharing database here.
Do governments have access to the database?
No. Only tech companies have access to the hash-sharing database. Content found by a member company is “hashed” in its raw form, ensuring there is no link to any source original platform or user data. Hashes appear as a numerical representation of the original content, which means they cannot be easily reverse engineered to recreate the content. Questions and requests for specific content should be directed to member companies since hashes are only numerical representations of source content and cannot practically be reverse engineered to recreate the content.
What is the Incident Response Framework?
GIFCT’s Incident Response Framework guides how GIFCT and members respond to a mass violent incident, streamlining how members can communicate and share situational awareness as an incident unfolds in order to identify any online dimension to the offline attack. Following the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, GIFCT members established a centralized communications mechanism to share news of ongoing incidents that might result in the spread of violent content produced by the perpetrators of the unfolding incident. GIFCT and its members initiate communications in response to a wide range of violent incidents in recognition that many different forms of violence can involve the exploitation of digital platforms as part of the attack. Guided by the Incident Response Framework, GIFCT leadership and members can then determine whether to activate certain levels of the framework reflecting whether the perpetrators are exploiting digital platforms as part of their violent attack and the form of online content or activity that may take. Read more about this work here.
What is the Content Incident Protocol?
The Content Incident Protocol (CIP) is the highest level of our Incident Response Framework and is activated when the perpetrators or accomplices of a terrorist or violent extremist attack record video or livestream the attack and the content is shared on a GIFCT member platform. When the CIP is activated, GIFCT members can contribute hashes of the content to the GIFCT hash-sharing database in order to support all members in identifying the content on their platforms and taking action in line with their respective policies and terms of service. The CIP is concluded when GIFCT and its members determine the spread of the content has effectively been stemmed. During an activated CIP, GIFCT communicates with its members, affected governments, and the public. The first CIP was activated on October 9, 2019 following the shooting in Halle, Germany when the attacker filmed his attack and the livestream was circulated on GIFCT member platforms. Learn more about this work here.
What is the Christchurch Call?
The Christchurch Call is a set of commitments supported by tech companies (including many GIFCT members) and over 50 governments to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. The Call was established by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron on 15 May 2019, two months to the day after 51 people were killed and 50 injured by a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attack was livestreamed, went viral and remains available on the web despite the measures taken to remove it. The Call is a collaborative and multistakeholder initiative. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society. Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and transparency is essential. Supporters commit to undertake a range of measures (individually and collaboratively), such as: developing tools to prevent the downloading of terrorist and violent extremist material; combatting the causes of violent extremism; improving transparency in the detection and removal of content; and ensuring that the algorithms designed and used by online platforms do not direct users towards violent extremist content. The Christchurch Call community has an ongoing, active program of work underway to achieve these objectives. It works closely with a range of organizations, including GIFCT.
What is GIFCT’s governance structure?
GIFCT’s Interim Executive Director Dr. Erin Saltman and the team of experts pursuing our programming, technological, and strategic initiatives lead GIFCT’s day-to-day operations as an independent non-profit organization. An Operating Board made up of members from the Forum’s founding companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube) governs the organization. The Operating Board is advised by an Independent Advisory Committee composed of representatives from civil society, government, and intergovernmental organizations. Learn more about the Independent Advisory Committee and its leadership here.
How is GIFCT funded?
GIFCT’s member companies provide financial contributions to fund GIFCT’s operations. Our four founding member companies and Operating Board members have funded GIFCT since its establishment while additional members began contributing in 2021. GIFCT’s Annual Report provides further information about our membership tiering structure for financial contributions. See the Financial sections of our 2022 Annual Report for the latest information.
How does GIFCT involve civil society?
GIFCT believes that solutions developed to prevent terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of digital platforms can only work if they reflect multi-stakeholder input, especially from civil society. By design, representatives from civil society hold a majority on GIFCT’s Independent Advisory Committee, participate across all GIFCT Working Groups, have been vital influences in how we seek to carry out the commitments of the Human Rights Impact Assessment we commissioned in the first year of our operations as an independent entity, and are recognized as key stakeholders advising across GIFCT’s lines of effort. GIFCT also hosts webinars and events that incorporate civil society voices to highlight areas of concern, adversarial shifts, and areas for further GIFCT work.
How does GIFCT work with governments?
GIFCT regularly engages governments that are part of the Freedom Online Coalition based on a shared interest to prevent terrorist and violent extremist exploitation of digital platforms. GIFCT Membership is only applicable to tech companies, however, representatives from seven governments hold rotating seats on GIFCT’s Independent Advisory Committee. In this capacity, they help to advise and guide GIFCT and its Operating Board. Representatives from governments participate across all of our GIFCT Working Groups and engage with GIFCT when a terrorist or violent extremist attack activates levels of our Incident Response Framework. At the same time, GIFCT participates in a range of forums and initiatives led by governments to combat terrorist and violent extremist activity and facilitates discussions on the impacts of particular legislation designed to address this activity.
Does GIFCT take positions on legislation?
GIFCT is not a lobbying body but does create space for and facilitate multi-sector discussions around topics such as developing legislation and policies. Year round, this work is primarily done through the GIFCT Working Groups, and particularly our Legal Frameworks Working Group. There, representatives from tech, government, and civil society co-lead discussions and drive annual output analyzing existing legal frameworks related to addressing terrorist and violent extremist content online. GIFCT’s Legal Frameworks Working Group also seeks to identify ways to share data and information related to this content while respecting privacy and fundamental freedoms and empowering technical innovations.
What does GIFCT do, and what does Tech Against Terrorism do?
GIFCT partners with and funds Tech Against Terrorism’s initiatives to mentor tech companies pursuing GIFCT Membership and to facilitate knowledge-sharing efforts among tech companies. As part of this partnership and shared initiatives, Tech Against Terrorism focuses on 1-to-1 support and mentorship for tech companies while GIFCT leads initiatives focused on “1-to-many” approaches, where resources and cross-platform tools can be utilized by multiple companies to combat terrorist and violent extremist exploitation on their platforms.
These shared initiatives include:
- Mentoring tech companies working to meet the requirements for GIFCT membership (learn more about our membership criteria here);
- Hosting and facilitating knowledge-sharing events where tech companies, experts, researchers and practitioners discuss and share findings, best practices and other learnings about online activity with ties to terrorism and violent extremism;
- Tech Against Terrorism identifying URLs where specific terrorist content exists in order to share this information with the hosting platform for removal; and
- GIFCT working to hash identified URLs so GIFCT member companies can identify if the URLs are being shared on their platform and, if so, review that activity against their respective policies and terms of service.
What does GIFCT do, and what does GNET do?
The Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET) is the academic research arm of GIFCT and aims to better understand the ways in which terrorists use technology. GIFCT funds GNET in order to generate real-time, cutting-edge research and expert insights about trends at the nexus of technology and terrorism globally and make this information available to tech companies, governments, civil society and other experts and practitioners trying to stay informed on the latest developments and influences for terrorist and violent extremist activity online.
How can I partner with GIFCT?
There are several ways to partner with GIFCT depending on the type of organization you may be:
- Tech companies can pursue membership with GIFCT. Learn more about our membership criteria and how to apply here.
- Academics and researchers interested can engage our academic research arm, GNET, and seek to contribute their subject matter expertise.
- Representatives from government and civil society are encouraged to learn more about GIFCT Working Groups and how to join here.
Others interested can reach out to [email protected].
How do I join a GIFCT Working Group?
We encourage you to apply to join a GIFCT Working Group when they are refreshed each year. Working Groups run on an annual basis and bring together experts from diverse stakeholder groups, geographies, and disciplines to offer advice in specific thematic areas and deliver on targeted, substantive projects. Each year, we refresh working groups to update themes and focus areas and to allow new participants to join. Participants work with GIFCT to prepare strategic work plans, outlining objectives, goals, strategies, deliverables, and timelines.