Anti-Defamation League, tech firms team to fight online hate

Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft are among the companies joining forces with the advocacy group to curb cyberhate.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read

The Anti-Defamation League is creating a lab with tech companies to fight online abuse.

Peter Strain

Some of the biggest names in tech are partnering with the Anti-Defamation League to thwart online harassment.

Facebook , Twitter , Google and Microsoft , among others, are joining with the ADL to form a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab, the companies and the civil rights group said Tuesday. They'll exchange ideas and develop strategies to try to curb hate speech and abuse on the companies' various platforms and across the internet.

"These companies have an added responsibility to do everything within their power to stop hate from flourishing on their watch," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. "We look forward to tackling this pressing challenge together."

Click to see our in-depth coverage of online hatred.

Click to see our in-depth coverage of online hatred.

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The cyberhate lab comes about seven months after the ADL said it was building a command center in Silicon Valley. And as online harassment continues to grow, tech giants including Facebook and Twitter have been ramping up their own efforts in response to trolling.

Though it's hard to quantify how pervasive online assaults have become, experts say the number is increasing. Forty percent of internet users have experienced some form of harassment, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report. The figure jumps to about 65 percent for those between the ages of 18 and 29.

The ADL has said that roughly 19,000 anti-Semitic tweets targeted Jewish journalists between August 2015 and July 2016 and that about 1,600 online accounts were responsible for 68 percent of those tweets. During that same time, 2.6 million anti-Jewish tweets may have been viewed as many as 10 billion times, the hate-monitoring group said.

As for Facebook, the world's largest social network has more than 7,500 people monitoring what users post, including violent videos and graphic images. Facebook has also invested in counterspeech to drown out racist, sexist and bigoted rhetoric and has programmed its service to keep people from creating groups with hateful terms in their names.

Yet, Facebook still is relying on its 2 billion monthly users to point out online abuse, and messages that violate Facebook's terms of use aren't always removed when they're reported.

Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy, said in a statement that "some of the best minds in engineering will work alongside the ADL to help us rise to the occasion."

Twitter has said its efforts to fight harassment are improving in part because of work with groups like the ADL to identify abusive behavior and help people more easily report it.

"We believe meaningful progress in safety measures and policies can best be informed in partnership with others, so we'll continue to collaborate with leading advocacy organizations, like ADL, to work towards solutions," Colin Crowell, Twitter's head of public policy and philanthropy, said in a statement.

Microsoft declined to comment. Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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