Microsoft announces new measures to curb terrorist-related use of its services

Microsoft has announced the implementation of a new policy in an attempt to thwart the creation and transmission of terrorist content amongst its consumer services.

While Microsoft will continue to enact its already established 'notice-and-takedown' process for the removal of any prohibited content, the company has taken the opportunity to specifically forbid terrorist content. This forthcoming amendment to the company's terms of use comes in spite of the existing broad definition of 'prohibited content' already covering terrorism. Any terrorist content reported to Microsoft via its new form will be removed.

Bing is also impacted by this change in policy. Even though Microsoft's search engine itself does not host content, it may still index content which could be related to terrorism. Interestingly, Microsoft will only remove links from Bing if required to do so under local laws which is in contrast to its approach to user reported terrorist content.

However, in order to identify and remove terrorist content, it must first be defined. In its blog regarding this issue, Microsoft stated:

There is no universally accepted definition of terrorist content. For purposes of our services, we will consider terrorist content to be material posted by or in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List that depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups. The U.N. Sanctions List includes a list of groups that the U.N. Security Council considers to be terrorist organizations.

Microsoft is also using this as an opportunity to support research into technology that can identify terrorist imagery, video and audio. The company will provide funding and technical support to Dartmouth College Professor Hany Farid to help curb the proliferation of online terrorist content. Also, as a founding member and financial sponsor of a new public-private partnership, Microsoft is supporting a UN initiative which was launched in April to deal with online terrorist content.

While the 'whack-a-mole' approach toward dealing with terrorist content will continue for the foreseeable future, it is encouraging to see Microsoft step up to investigate if technology can make a difference.

Source: Microsoft

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