Tech giants testify on Capitol Hill, addressing role in online extremism

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC News) - Social media giants testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday in a Senate hearing addressing their role in online extremism.

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"Social media companies, there's more they can do?" asked Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington State.

"Yes ma'am, there's much more that can be done," said George Selim of the Anti-Defamation League.

Lawmakers are taking a deeper look at the spread of hate online, examining how Twitter, Google and Facebook identify and remove extremist voices.

"How do you define violent content?" asked Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker.

Facebook has made sweeping policy changes after a gunman in New Zealand live-streamed 17 minutes of murder on its platform

"We know bad actors will continue to skirt detection and we're dedicated to advance our work and share our progress," said Monika Bickert with Google.

All three tech companies have invested in technology to find violence and hate speech quicker. However, extremist voices reach beyond large platforms.

"When we remove content, it moves those views and ideologies into the darker corners of the internet,” said Nick Pickles with Twitter.

Dark corners such as 8chan, a forum where the El Paso shooter and others posted racist manifestos.

Tech companies are now banning links to those sites and sharing information industrywide.

"There is a reason for optimism, based on collaboration between all of us today," said Derek Slater of Google.

While methods to thwart extremism improve, there is always the risk of dangerous content falling through the cracks

"We can never sleep. These actors are adversarial and we have to keep adapting,” Pickles said.

As lawmakers and tech giants face the reality that their work is never done, tech companies are also investing in prevention and technology to detect the early warning signs of violent acts before they happen.

In Facebook's recent changes, the social media company has expanded its program to redirect users seeking extremism to resources intended to help them leave hate groups behind.

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