Zoom joins counterterrorism tech group

Video conferencing platform Zoom has joined an independent counterterrorism group that shares information among major tech companies to combat violence and extremism.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) announced Wednesday that Zoom had joined the group. The forum was founded by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube in 2017 and now has 18 members.

Other members include WhatsApp, Pinterest, Dropbox, Discord and Amazon. Non-members like Reddit and Snap Inc. are also able to access the organization's database. News of Zoom's inclusion in the group was first reported by Reuters.

The group was founded following deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels and operates a hash-sharing database in which companies share content that has been removed from their platforms so others can keep an eye out for similar posts.

Zoom, which was started in 2011, skyrocketed in popularity soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 as more people gathered online for work, school and to socialize.

"At Zoom, we strive to be a platform built on trust and are committed to creating a safe online environment. With a complex and evolving digital landscape, it is our responsibility to support our users and protect them against online threats," Josh Parecki, Zoom's Associate General Counsel on Trust & Safety, said in a statement to The Hill.

"We are proud to become a member of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). By collaborating with other leaders across the industry, sharing key learnings and advancing research, we aspire to make the digital world a safer place for all," said Parecki.

Reuters noted that the company has received criticism for how it polices content and abuse that occurs on its platform.

One common form of harassment on Zoom is "zoom-bombing," when an uninvited guest logs into and interrupts a meeting, often blasting abusive, racist and misogynistic slurs. Meeting hijackers may also display disturbing or pornographic images.

Earlier this month, authorities in Washington state announced they were investigating a recent incident in which a school board meeting was interrupted by a group or individual who showed images of George Floyd and repeated racial slurs.

GIFCT Executive Director Nicholas Rasmussen said in the organization's announcement that it was "delighted" to have Zoom join as a member.

Rasmussen added to Reuters that GIFCT's mission "requires we work with a diverse range of companies ... to develop cross-platform solutions that render terrorists and violent extremists ineffective across the internet."

- Updated at 4:20 p.m.