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France turns to tech giants in fight against online terrorist propaganda

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France has turned to the high-tech heavyweights of Silicon Valley to help tackle online propaganda from armed groups like the Islamic State.

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French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve made the appeal to representatives from Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter as he toured California’s tech capital on Friday.

French officials would like to see the tech giants work directly with them during investigations and remove any terrorist propaganda authorities alert them to.

“We emphasized that when an investigation is underway we don't want to go through the usual government to government channels, which can take so long,” Cazeneuve said to reporters at the French Consulate in San Francisco.

France and its partners – including the US and Britain – are trying to thwart the Islamic State armed group’s handle on using propaganda videos to indoctrinate new recruits, and central to this is partnering with the Internet firms that have inadvertently become part and parcel of the groups’s widely successful online tactics.

Twitter and Facebook representatives said they would do everything they can to stop user-generated material that incites violence from appearing online, however, no comment was made on whether they would directly cooperate with French authorities.

Cazeneuve said that Internet companies have already sped up in reacting to reports of online terrorist propaganda since the Paris attacks in January.

The French minister, along with other European leaders, are pushing for users posting certain material to be blocked from websites and for violent videos, such as those showing the beheadings of foreign hostages, to be censored.

“I told them we can figure this out together, we can come up with counter-terrorism speech and block these sites that are enticing the most vulnerable members of our society to commit terrorist acts,'' Cazeneuve said.

With no clear answer given on Friday, Cazeneuve said the tech companies were invited to a follow-up meeting in Paris this April.

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