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UK government tool detects ISIS videos before they go live

The Home Office claims that the tool can detect 94 percent of terrorist propaganda during the upload process.


An armed police officer stands guard near Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament following a terror attack in 2017.

Jack Taylor, Getty Images

The UK government has developed a tool that it says can detect extremist videos online. The technology uses machine learning to analyse the audio-visual content of a video and determine whether it's likely to contain terrorist propaganda.

The Home Office created the tool in collaboration with ASI Data Science. The government claims the technology can "automatically detect 94 percent of Daesh propaganda with 99.995 percent accuracy". It can be used by any video platform and is used during the video uploading process, meaning questionable videos are flagged before they reach the internet. 

By preventing the videos from being released, the government is aiming to tackle the speed that videos can be shared on the internet. The majority of links to ISIS propaganda are sent out within two hours of release, while a third of all links are disseminated within the first hour.

Larger tech companies such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have been working to curb terrorist content online since 2016. Last year YouTube took further steps to identify and remove terrorist content online. The Home Office's tool targets smaller platforms, which it says don't have the same resources to combat extremist videos. 

UK home secretary Amber Rudd announced the new technology, saying:

The purpose of these videos is to incite violence in our communities, recruit people to their cause, and attempt to spread fear in our society. We know that automatic technology like this can heavily disrupt the terrorists' actions, as well as prevent people from ever being exposed to these horrific images.