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Politics G7 ministers pressing tech giants to remove extremist content faster, Goodale says

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale addresses the media during a news conference at a G7 meeting in Toronto on Monday.

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Group of Seven security ministers are putting pressure on technology giants, including Facebook and Twitter, to remove extremist and terrorist content from their platforms faster, threatening “other action” if they fail to do so soon.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he and his G7 counterparts made the appeal to members of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an industry group comprised of more than 70 technology companies, during a meeting in Toronto on Tuesday. Representatives of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft were in the room for the closed-door session.

“The message is: Let’s pick up the pace on the improvement that we need to see to get rid of this vile material off the internet, and if we don’t see the pace improving fast enough, then we reserve the right to take other action,” Mr. Goodale said.

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“I think the companies heard that message loud and clear.”

The minister did not indicate what “other action” could entail.

Mr. Goodale said the companies shared new statistics with the ministers on their handling of extremist and terrorist posts. For example, he said Facebook told them it “took action” on 1.9 million pieces of Islamic State or al-Qaeda content in the first quarter of this year – twice as much as in the quarter before that. He said 99 per cent of that content was dealt with as a result of Facebook’s internal monitoring, not in response to outsiders’ concerns.

Mr. Goodale said G7 security ministers also want tech companies to improve their ability to automatically remove extremist material, present users who consistently search for terrorist material with a “counter narrative” and report more regularly on their counterterrorism efforts.

The global internet forum was established in June of 2017 with a goal of preventing extremist and terrorist use of the internet. It recently created an industry database on which companies share unique digital identification codes of terrorist content, allowing them to find and remove material that violates their policies, and in some cases block it before it can be posted.

G7 ministers also discussed the domestic and global threat environment, as Toronto grappled with the aftermath of a vehicle attack that killed 10 people and injured at least 14 on Monday.

Mr. Goodale said the investigation into the attack is still in its early hours, noting that so far, there is “no discernible connection to national security” and no information to suggest it was linked to the G7.

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Security ministers also talked cybersecurity, foreign interference in liberal democracies and human trafficking. David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, provided ministers with an overview of threats and other emerging issues.

Tuesday’s meeting wrapped up a three-day summit of the G7 foreign affairs and security ministers. The G7 leaders will meet this June in Charlevoix, Que.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the deadly van attack in north Toronto on Monday doesn’t appear to be connected to national security. At least 10 people were killed in the incident and 15 others were injured. The Canadian Press
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