White House meets with social media giants on predicting mass shootings

It was a "productive discussion" on combating hateful and violent content online, says lobbying group the Internet Association.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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People attend a candlelight vigil at a makeshift memorial honoring victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

People attend a candlelight vigil at a makeshift memorial honoring victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

The White House met with tech giants Friday to discuss how tools might be developed to scan social media posts and predict mass shootings, according to a report by The Washington Post. The meeting, which followed two such shootings last weekend that have left 31 people dead, included Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, all of which were asked to make suggestions in the next few weeks, the Post said.

Early Sunday, nine people died in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. The day before, 20 people died in a shooting in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, with another two victims dying Monday morning. Just prior to the El Paso attack, the suspected gunman posted a hate-filled statement on 8chan, an anonymous online forum.

Twitter confirmed to CNET that its public policy executives attended Friday's White House meeting, while the Internet Association, a lobbying group formed by Amazon, Facebook, Google and other tech companies,labeled the meeting a "productive discussion" on combating hateful and violent content online.

Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman said in an emailed statement that its members "detailed their extensive efforts using automated tools and human review to find and prevent the spread of hateful, violent and extremist content on their platforms."

"Hate and violent extremism are a society-wide problem and cannot be solved solely online," Beckerman added Friday afternoon. "As technology companies, we will continue to collaborate across industry, government, law enforcement and other stakeholders to address hate and extremism."

Other IA members include Microsoft, Reddit, Snap Inc., Twitter and Uber.

The Trump administration wants tools that could predict mass shootings and give an early warning by going through social media photos, posts and videos, according to the Post. But two of the report's three unnamed sources said that the tech giants raised privacy concerns with collating data on individuals across multiple social media platforms.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did  Amazon Facebook , Google  or  Microsoft .

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump called on social media companies to "develop tools to detect mass shooters before they strike."  

Former President Barack Obama also tweeted about the mass shootings, saying "law enforcement and internet platforms need to come up with better strategies to reduce the influence of these hate groups."