Meta releases an open-source tool that can scan for terrorist content

Companies can also use the free tool to remove child exploitation content and other kinds of abusive posts.

JOSH EDELSON via Getty Images

Meta said it spent $5 billion on global safety and security last year and employs hundreds of people dedicated to anti-terror work. Not every company has those kind of resources, but Meta has shared a new open-source tool that can help combat child exploitation, terrorist propaganda and other types of abusive content for free. The tool is called Hasher-Matcher-Actioner (HMA), and it builds on the company's previous image and video matching software that it also released three years ago.

HMA can keep websites free of unsavory content with the help of its users who label images and videos that violate rules and laws. The system will create a "hash" or a unique fingerprint of each piece of content that gets saved onto a database. Companies can use the tool to create and run their own databases, but they can also use existing hash databases to make sure they have everything covered. That means they don't have to save the offending images or videos themselves and can simply run all their content through the databases they use to find posts that potentially violate their rules.

Meta has shared the tool shortly before it assumes the chair of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) board next month. That's the group it formed with Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to fight online extremism back in 2017. GIFCT runs a database that companies can use with the HMA, and Meta says when "more companies participate in the hash sharing database the better and more comprehensive it is — and the better we all are at keeping terrorist content off the internet, especially since people will often move from one platform to another to share this content." It added: "...many companies do not have the in-house technology capabilities to find and moderate violating content in high volumes, which is why HMA is a potentially valuable tool."

Those interested can checkout the Hasher-Matcher-Actioner tool on GitHub.