Christchurch shooting videos remain on social media - expert

Nearly six months on from the Christchurch shootings, raw videos of the attack remain on social media, according to a technology expert.

Eric Feinberg, founder of Global Intellectual Property Enforcement Center, has been tracking versions of the livestream of the March 15 attack and updating social media companies of their location.

While sites like Facebook say they have taken down more than a million copies of the video, Feinberg says versions remain online and more action could be taken to find a solution to ridding social media platforms of extremist content.

"[It is] six months since the Christchurch attack and our systems continue to find raw videos of the attack on Facebook and Instagram," he told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"There is talk about [cleaning up social media], but they put off subject-matter experts like myself who have patented systems that, if we could have access to their APIs [Application Programming Indexes] and work together in partnership, could actually go a long way to solving these problems.

"Application Programming Indexes [are] how websites communicate, so systems like mine communicate with systems like theirs. It is code to code.

Christchurch shooting videos remain on social media - expert
Photo credit: The AM Show / Google Maps.

Feinberg said his organisation was able to quickly develop code that tracks versions of the video - including in different languages. 

"We have done a lot of research on ISIS and Arabic, radical Islamic use of social media. So the day after the Christchurch attack, we literally developed code, not in English, but in Arabic, so basically we used a translation tool and we probably picked up 500-600 raw videos of the attack, not in English, not in Spanish, but in Arabic," he said.

"Then we created code to basically go after and search or dive to find these videos with Arabic communications."

Ardern and Dorsey meet

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with Twitter head Jack Dorsey to further conversations around the Christchurch Call - a pledge by 16 countries and eight technology companies to eliminate terrorist content from the internet.

No outcome of that meeting has been made public, but details of progress could be announced later this month when Ardern visits New York for the UN General Assembly.

Jack Dorsey and Jacinda Ardern.
Jack Dorsey and Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Jack Dorsey.

Feinberg wishes to meet with Ardern to show her how his systems are effective in finding the videos.

"She is coming here to New York so I would like to make an invitation while she is here in New York at the United Nations to meet with me, and I could show her what is going on, how we are finding it, and how these platforms continue to obfuscate and stonewall to make any real solution.

"The analogy I have is, is that [social media sites] have a disease in their body and we have a vaccine, but if they don't allow us access to the API, how can we shoot the vaccine into the body?"

Ardern raised 8chan - a message board which has been described as a cesspool of extremist content - with Dorsey, saying: "I sensed an awareness of the issue. I think we'll probably have an ongoing conversation about it."

There have been calls for Twitter to suspend 8chan's Twitter account. The #unTwitter8chan hashtag gained prominence in August after the controversial site crashed, but its Twitter account remained online.

People using the hashtag said 8chan and its administrators shouldn't be given a platform by the social media site. The account provides a link to the crashed site and says it is located in the "Darkest Reaches of the Internet".

The account is also verified by Twitter with a blue tick.

"An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest," Twitter says. However, it also notes a verification badge isn't an endorsement.

Christchurch shooting videos remain on social media - expert
Photo credit: 8chan

Feinberg says 8chan certainly shouldn't have a Twitter account, but he believes the social media company is probably unlikely to suspend it as it gets too many "eyeballs".

"Yes, 100 percent, there is no need for it, it is a nefarious account. It has a verified symbol on it. Why should it be verified?" he said. 

"It is all about eyeballs. You come to Twitter… they want to keep you on Twitter as opposed to going to 8chan. So you go to Twitter, then you can access 8chan through Twitter. It is all about eyeballs so they can sell advertising."

Former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos told The Washington Post that 8chan could use Twitter to broadcast where to find them now that their site was offline.

Social media "is the new dark web"

Feinberg said social media sites are no longer just bulletin boards for others' content and should be more liable for what is posted on their platforms. He said they are now a haven for atrocious content. 

"It is just atrocious how much of this bad content we are picking up. Neo-Nazi, anti-semitic, anti-minority across the world," he told The AM Show.

"We have given a platform to people who want to hate and in some cases, want to create violence.

"Social media is actually the new dark web. Not only are we tracking hate and terrorist speak, you can actually find the sale of illegal drugs, passports, counterfeit currency, antiquities, elephant tusks."

But he says executives at the companies aren't interested in working with him. 

"They never do the right thing. I have met with every one of these social media companies, at mid-level executive, offered to work with them on our solutions, and they literally say 'thanks, but no thanks' and a million and one excuses why they don't want to listen more and work with our solutions," he says.

"Yet, they come to us, especially on the Christchurch stuff… and say 'Eric, can you send us the link so we can take them down'."

Ultimately, he commended Ardern for opening up a dialogue about extremist content online and believes if she sought out experts like him, she could be successful in achieving her ambitious goal of seeing social media rid of extremist content.

A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo   GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE - SEARCH "BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD JULY 25" FOR ALL IMAGES - RTSJGEL
Photo credit: Getty.

Actions by Facebook

Earlier this year, Facebook's policy director Brian Fisherman reportedly told the United States Congress that the company's livestream algorithm didn't detect the massacre because there wasn't "enough gore".

While the livestream was viewed roughly 200 times while live, no one reported it to Facebook, the company said.

After the attacks on March 15, Facebook announced it wouldn't allow white nationalism and separatism on its platform anymore.

"Our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organised hate groups," the company said in a statement.

The Christchurch Call launch in May also prompted Facebook to introduce new restrictions to Facebook Live and invest money into improving image and video analysis technology.