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After mass shootings, White House, tech leaders talk efforts to combat online extremism

Thomas Barrabi

Trump administration officials met with leaders from top tech and social media firms at the White House on Friday to discuss efforts to combat online extremism and prevent acts of violence in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

At least 31 people were killed last weekend in attacks at a Walmart store in El Paso and outside several bars in Dayton. The Walmart shooting suspect allegedly posted a manifesto on online forum 8chan shortly before the attack, prompting the web infrastructure firm CloudFlare to shut down support for the site.

“The conversation focused on how technology can be leveraged to identify potential threats, to provide help to individuals exhibiting potentially violent behavior, & to combat domestic terror,” White House spokesman Judd Deere posted on Twitter. “We urge internet and social media companies to continue their efforts in addressing violent extremism and helping individuals at risk, and to do so without compromising free speech.”

Leading social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet-owned YouTube, have sought to crack down on online extremism and hate speech after recent mass shootings. Firms drew scrutiny earlier this year after the perpetrator of deadly shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand broadcast the attacks online.

White House officials did not say which companies attended the meeting. Executives from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Reddit and Microsoft were invited, the Washington Post reported.

"Today’s meeting was a productive discussion with the White House and a group of IA member companies about how good actors in the internet ecosystem work to combat violent, hateful content online,” said Michael Beckerman, president and CEO of the Internet Association, a lobbyist group that represents many large-cap tech firms. “IA and its members detailed their extensive efforts using automated tools and human review to find and prevent the spread of hateful, violent, and extremist content on their platforms."

While details about the substance of the meeting were scant, the discussion focused on ways the White House and tech firms could collaborate in the future to combat online extremism. White House officials said they were considering measures both online and offline to prevent to address the situation, a source familiar with the meeting told FOX Business.

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At a press conference earlier this week, President Trump called on lawmakers to take steps to improve scrutiny of internet activity to prevent future attacks of extremism and violence.

"We must shine light on the dark recesses of the Internet and stop mass murders before they start - the Internet likewise is used for human trafficking, illegal drugs distribution and so many other crimes - that cannot and will not be ignored," Trump said.

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