Microsoft pledges to remove terrorist content from its online services

Microsoft announced today that it will amend its terms of use to prohibit the posting of terrorist content on its consumer online services. It will also remove any terrorist-related content when it is brought to its attention.

In a blog post, Microsoft stated:

There is no universally accepted definition of terrorist content. For purposes of our services, we will consider terrorist content to be material posted by or in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List that depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups. The U.N. Sanctions List includes a list of groups that the U.N. Security Council considers to be terrorist organizations.

Microsoft also stated how it will handle terrorist-related content displayed in its Bing search engine:

In the context of a tool for accessing information, we believe that societies, acting through their governments, ought to draw the line between free speech and limitations relating to particular types of content. Therefore, we will remove links to terrorist-related content from Bing only when that takedown is required of search providers under local law. (We are already operating this way in France, for example, where we are routinely provided by the police authority with links to terrorist-related content that is unlawful there.) We do believe, however, that we can help users make informed choices when they may be exposed to information that may cause them significant harm, including terrorist content. Therefore, we are exploring new partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to display public service announcements with links to positive messaging and alternative narratives for some search queries for terrorist material. We're hopeful that these upcoming collaborations will help protect troubled individuals from heading down a path toward violence.

In addition, the company is providing funding and technical support to Professor Hany Farid of Dartmouth College for his project that's designed to identify online terrorist content:

The goal is to help curb the spread of known terrorist material with a technology that can accurately and proactively scan and flag public content that contains known terrorist images, video and audio.

John Callaham