Facebook taps London police to track terror livestreams

Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu speaks to the media after a car crashed outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, last year. (Reuters)
Updated 17 September 2019

Facebook taps London police to track terror livestreams

  • London’s Metropolitan Police said the initiative will see it start providing Facebook in October with footage of training by its forearms command unit
  • The Christchurch attack images were broadcast live for 17 minutes — and remained online for a further 12 minutes — before Facebook was alerted by a user and took it down

LONDON: Facebook on Tuesday teamed up with the London police to help its artificial intelligence tools track livestreams of terror attacks such as the New Zealand mosque massacre.
In March, a self-professed white supremacist used a head-mounted camera to broadcast live footage on Facebook of him attacking two mosques in the city of Christchurch.
Facebook and platforms such as YouTube came under intense criticism for initially failing to detect the broadcast and then struggling to take down its uploads that proliferated online.
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and other world leaders in May launched a “Christchurch Call to Action” against online extremism — a campaign Facebook and other major platforms quickly joined later that month.
The California-based social media behemoth said Tuesday it was in the process of updating its policies for dealing with extremism and online hate.
“Some of these changes predate the tragic terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, but that attack, and the global response to it in the form of the Christchurch Call to Action, has strongly influenced the recent updates to our policies and their enforcement.”
London’s Metropolitan Police said the initiative will see it start providing Facebook in October with footage of training by its forearms command unit.
The videos will be captured on body cameras provided by Facebook that officers wear during exercises.
This will help Facebook “capture the volume of images needed to train our machine learning tools,” the company said.
“This will mean our AI tools will be able to more accurately and rapidly identify real life first person shooter incidents and remove them from our platform.”
The London police said its footage will be combined with video Facebook is already using from law enforcement agencies in the United States.
This technology will “also significantly help prevent the glorification of such acts and the promotion of the toxic ideologies that drive them,” Britain’s Special Operations assistant commissioner Neil Basu said.
The Metropolitan Police said Facebook decided to ask London for help because it has created the world’s first counter-terror Internet response team focused on online hate.
The speed with which the videos spread and Facebook’s initial inability to track them all down redoubled public and government scrutiny of the world’s biggest social media company.
The Christchurch images were broadcast live for 17 minutes — and remained online for a further 12 minutes — before Facebook was alerted by a user and took it down.
Yet millions of upload and shares continued to spread online for days.
Facebook on Tuesday defended its track record but conceded that “bad actors will continue to try to get around our systems.”
It reported banning 200 white supremacist organizations and removing 26 million “pieces of content” or terrorist organization such as the Islamic State.
Facebook said Tuesday that it was also expanding to Australia and Indonesia a US program in which users who search for extremist content on the platform are directed to a special support group.
The US group was “founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach,” Facebook said.


Google completes first drone delivery in the US

Updated 19 October 2019

Google completes first drone delivery in the US

  • The yellow and white drones are loaded with packages at a local center of operations called the “Nest”
  • Other companies are working to launch similar services, most notably Amazon, UPS and Uber Eats

WASHINGTON: Alphabet (Google) subsidiary Wing has become the first company in the United States to deliver packages by drone.
In Christiansburg, the small Virginia town chosen as Wing’s test location, the 22,000 residents can order products normally shipped by FedEx, medicine from Walgreens and a selection of candy from a local business — all of which will arrive via drone.
Wing, which already operates in two Australian cities as well as Helsinki, announced in a statement that the first drone-powered deliveries had taken place Friday afternoon in Christiansburg, “paving the way for the most advanced drone delivery service in the nation.”
One family used the Wing app to order Tylenol, cough drops, Vitamin C tablets, bottled water and tissues, the statement said.
An older resident ordered a birthday present for his wife. Although the majority of the delivery was done by a FedEx truck, the last mile was completed by drone.
The yellow and white drones are loaded with packages at a local center of operations called the “Nest,” where Wing employees pack them with up to three pounds (1.3 kilograms) of goods, deliverable within a six mile (10 kilometer) radius.
Once they have arrived at their destination, the drones don’t land. Instead, they hover above the house and lower the package with a cable.
Other companies are working to launch similar services, most notably Amazon, UPS and Uber Eats. But Wing was the first to obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), authorizing company pilots to fly multiple drones at the same time.