Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism: Evolving an Institution
The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) was formally established in July 2017 as a group of companies, dedicated to disrupting terrorist abuse of members’ digital platforms. The original Forum was led by a rotating chair drawn from the founding four companies—Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube—and managed a program of knowledge-sharing, technical collaboration and shared research. Building on that early success, cognizant of terrorists’ determined and increasingly sophisticated efforts to abuse digital platforms, as exemplified by the Christchurch attack, and inspired by the multi-stakeholder approach of the Christchurch Call, it is time to establish GIFCT as an independent organization capable of sustaining and deepening industry collaboration and capacity, while incorporating the advice of key civil society and government stakeholders.
The independent GIFCT will adopt an updated mission statement and four foundational goals.
GIFCT mission statement: “Prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms.”
- Improve the capacity of a broad range of technology companies, independently and collectively, to prevent and respond to abuse of their digital platforms by terrorists and violent extremists
- Enable multi-stakeholder engagement around terrorist and violent extremist misuse of the internet and encourage stakeholders to meet key commitments consistent with the GIFCT mission
- Encourage those dedicated to online civil dialogue and empower efforts to direct positive alternatives to the messages of terrorists and violent extremists
- Advance broad understanding of terrorist and violent extremist operations and their evolution, including the intersection of online and offline activities
The GIFCT will be restructured as an independent membership organization led by an Executive Director and supported by dedicated staff. Funding for core GIFCT operations will be drawn from industry contributions.
The Executive Director will be responsible for leadership and coordination of all GIFCT operations, including core management, program implementation, fund-raising and engagement with the Operating Board and the Independent Advisory Committee.
Existing GIFCT workstreams, such as employing and leveraging technology, exemplified by the shared industry hash database of violent terrorist imagery and propaganda; knowledge-sharing efforts, and the Global Research Network on Terrorism and Technology (GRNTT) will be folded into three strategic pillars designed to house and foster additional work programs and maximize transparency. The strategic pillars are:
● “Prevent” to equip digital platforms and civil society groups with awareness, knowledge and tools, including technology, to develop sustainable programs in their core business operations to disrupt terrorist and violent extremist activity online.
● “Respond” will develop tools and capacity, including via regular multi-stakeholder exercises, for platforms to cooperate with one another and with other stakeholders to mitigate the impact of a terrorist or violent extremist attack.
● “Learn” will empower researchers to study terrorism and counterterrorism, including creating and evaluating best practices for multi-stakeholder cooperation and preventing abuse of digital platforms.
Importantly, GIFCT members will continue to enforce their own policies and standards, and engage in other standard operating procedures associated with content removals, account closures, and similar enforcement actions related to violations of terms of service or community standards. Membership in the GIFCT and participation in operational programs like the shared industry hash database, has not—and will never—be intended to replace or supplant a company’s internal policies, standards and procedures.
Core programs developed under the three pillars will be supplemented by bespoke, multi-stakeholder working groups that will both conduct distinct projects and advise on related GIFCT efforts. Working groups will be convened at the direction of the Executive Director, each with expected outcomes and outputs, strategic approaches, participants, funding and lifespan. Working groups may require specific expertise and, as such, may include industry, government and civil society participants that are not members of the GIFCT nor the Independent Advisory Committee.
Working groups will have the ability to coordinate multi-stakeholder funding for specific projects supported by the GIFCT. Initial working groups are expected to address positive interventions with respect to radicalization, algorithmic outcomes, improving the multi-stakeholder Shared Crisis Response Protocol, and legal issues related to data-sharing, among other topics. By way of example, the Shared Crisis Response Protocol Working Group would include members from all stakeholder groups with the aim of continuous improvement with respect to crisis response, including via monitoring, evaluation and tabletop exercises.
The multi-stakeholder approach of these working groups will build on the success and model of GIFCT’s existing partnership with the NGO Tech Against Terrorism (TaT). TaT developed robust knowledge-sharing programs that have been, and will remain, key elements of GIFCT’s work, all the while receiving funding from, among others, the United Nations and the Canadian government for related projects.
GIFCT membership is limited to companies operating internet platforms and services. Membership will not require paying dues but will necessitate meeting specified requirements contained in GIFCT membership criteria as approved by the Operating Board. These include explicit prohibitions on terrorist and violent extremist content, a commitment to transparency, and a pledge to respect human rights. GIFCT members will be invited to all GIFCT events, namely specialized briefings and regular conference calls, be noted on the GIFCT’s website and represent themselves as members of the GIFCT.
Governance and Stakeholder Dialogue
GIFCT governance will reside with an industry-led Operating Board, in conjunction with stakeholder dialogue enabled by a multi-stakeholder Independent Advisory Committee and a broad Multi-stakeholder Forum.
The Operating Board will select
the Executive Director, provide the operational budget, and ensure overall
GIFCT operations align with its mission. The Operating Board will be composed
of GIFCT’s founding members; at least one rotating company from the broader
membership cadre; new companies that meet leadership criteria, and the rotating
chair of the Independent Advisory Committee, who will participate as a
non-voting member. The Operating Board chair will rotate annually.
The Independent Advisory Committee will guide the Operating Board, including through an annual report
advising on organizational priorities and reflecting on previous performance.
Independent Advisory Committee meetings will be held in conjunction with
members of the Operating Board. The Independent Advisory Committee will include
a minority of members from government and inter-governmental entities and a
majority drawn from civil society understood broadly to include, among others,
advocacy groups, human rights specialists, foundations, researchers and
technical experts. All government representatives must represent governments
that are members of the Freedom Online Coalition. The Independent Advisory
Committee chair will always be a non-governmental representative. The Operating
Board will periodically review and update the composition of the Independent
Advisory Committee, with the intent of maintaining continuity of the group,
encouraging diverse thinking and representing the global community.
● The Multi-stakeholder Forum will include a wide range of companies, civil society members and governments committed to upholding and respecting human rights and preventing terrorists from exploiting digital platforms. The Forum will serve as the primary vehicle for information-sharing and ideas-exchange to help guide GIFCT activities and engagement across the three strategic pillars: Prevent, Respond, and Learn. Throughout the year, participants will have the opportunity to join regular conference calls for updates and receive GIFCT’s bi-annual transparency reports. Forum members will also be invited to attend GIFCT workshops across the globe, e-learning sessions and the GIFCT annual summit for more in-depth dialogue and insight into priority-setting.