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Extremism blocking tool could have serious downsides: Professor Ian Robertson

The UK Government revealed today a new weapon in the fight against terrorism - a tool which uses artificial intelligence to accurately detect jihadist content and block it from being viewed online.

robertsonian

Professor Ian Robertson, Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick's Department of Computer Science, comments on its potentially dangerous downsides:

"Security is always an important issue and the prevention of terrorism is particularly in people's minds on the day when Thomas Cook announces the return of British tourism to Tunisia.

"Denying extremists a media platform is one means to increase security. We must also congratulate the UK organisation (ASI Data Science) and researchers who claim to have created a counter-terrorist tool to scan and suppress extremist messages in on-line media. This appears to be a particularly useful and timely application of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

"As with most new technology there is also a downside: if the tool works on Islamic State propaganda then it will work to automatically censor other, perhaps legitimate, sources of information. Tools themselves are amoral. No doubt such an approach is already in use in many states but its insidious use to bias elections and suppress free journalism is probably only a matter of time. As is often the case, our legal system is slipping behind in this area and we need to be alert to possible dangers."

13 February 2018

Further information contact:

Luke Walton, International Press Manager

+44 (0) 7824 540 863

+44 (0) 2476 150 868

L dot Walton dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk