Can Facebook spot terrorist behavior online? Daniel Weitzner discusses in the Guardian

The UK parliament’s intelligence and security committee recently suggested that Facebook and other internet platforms “take responsibility” for detecting terrorist activity online, in much the way that search engines can find child abuse images.

But in the Guardian, CSAIL researcher Daniel Weitzner - the former White House deputy chief technology officer for internet policy - argues that having web platforms become "partners in state surveillance" doesn't just threaten free expression and privacy, but may not even make technical sense.

We might like to believe that internet powerhouses possess the technological wizardry to pinpoint terrorist behaviour hidden in the hundreds of millions of messages generated each hour with the same accuracy of an airport metal detector which can spot a revolver in a traveller’s pocket. Implicit in the ISC report is the suggestion that these Silicon Valley geniuses could make the world a safer place but just refuse to do so. But the reality is more complex....

Finding terrorist communications is much harder that finding copyright infringing videos or child abuse. First, there just aren’t that many terrorists in the world (luckily) so there is little data with which to train automated alerts. More importantly, according to the ISC report, terrorist behaviour is adaptive. A video rip-off of a copyrighted movie can’t change is characteristics to avoid detection. Nor can a child abuse image morph into something else. However, terrorists know they are being watched so take steps to avoid detection.

Read more at the Guardian website: