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House Democrats want to see how much Big Tech is spending to curb extremism

On Thursday, Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee pressed major tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google, to submit their budgets to curb content from terrorists and extremists on their platforms.

Committee chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) first pushed the companies for a briefing in March after the white nationalist terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, was live-streamed to Facebook. According to the committee, no company was able to adequately comply with the committee’s requests. In April, lawmakers pressed companies again for more details. Some replied to these requests, but lawmakers didn’t find their answers to be sufficient. As a result, members are issuing a more aggressive push to learn exactly how much the firms spend on counterterrorism.

“The fact that some of the largest corporations in the world are unable to tell us what they are specifically doing to stop terrorist and extremist content is not acceptable,” Thompson and Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) said. “Domestic terrorism is on the rise both here and abroad, and of all forms of terrorism and extremism are increasingly turning to these social media platforms to proliferate their message and spread their violent, hateful content.”

According to the committee, Facebook did not respond at all to their requests. In a statement to The Verge today, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We have been, and continue to, work with the Committee on this issue, which is of utmost importance.”

In an April 24th letter to the committee, Twitter director of public policy and philanthropy Carlos Monje Jr. emphasized the company’s commitment to removing terrorist content. “We continue to work closely with industry peers,” Monje wrote, “and have made a dramatic investment in corporate resources directed at reviewing and removing any problematic content on our service, including that content associated with terrorism.” Twitter did not specifically outline how much money or resources it has devoted to counterterrorism efforts.

YouTube also responded to the committee in a letter on April 24th. “It is difficult and possibly misleading for us to disaggregate our counter-terrorism efforts from overall expenditures to protect our domain,” William McCants, Google’s global public policy lead for hate speech and terrorism, wrote. “It would require a lot of assumptions of partial allocations.”

Twitter and Google declined to comment. Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest push.

“When it comes to our national security – and keeping Americans safe from hate and terrorism – broad platitudes and vague explanations of safety procedures aren’t enough,” Thompson and Rose said. “We need a full accounting of what is being done.”

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