back to article UK Home Sec Amber Rudd unveils extremism blocking tool

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced a tool that purports to detect and block jihadist content online, and tech companies may end up being legally required to use it. London-based firm ASI Data Science was handed £600,000 by government to develop the unnamed algorithm, which uses machine learning to analyse Daesh …

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  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    Well this is fantastic. I guess we've entered the age where the Government will be able to censor material from the public without the public ever really knowing.

    All in the name of terrorism and our safety of course.

    1. m0rt Silver badge

      Or rather what we have actually done is fund another private firm whose owners/founders *know* people in the civil service (and in the space of a couple of weeks this will come out ), along with independent tests showing just how crap this 'amazing' tech actually is. Rudd has put her name to it so we should be pretty sure of the outcome.

      Wonder how much from Al Jazeera will get incorrectly flagged?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Incorrectly flagged?

        Better. I'm waiting for everyone holding up random coloured and shaped bits of paper in the videos to break the algo and slip through.

        (see the reg articles on breaking ai or image recognition with a single pixel)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Wonder how much from Al Jazeera will get incorrectly flagged?"

        I'm pretty sure at some point that to will become a "terrorist" news outlet.

        Can't have the other persons point of view after all.

      3. Rob D. Bronze badge

        > Wonder how much from Al Jazeera will get incorrectly flagged?

        The ASI blurb video on YouTube appears to be using an Al Jazeera news item about Daesh to show the negative response to the scoring algorithm versus a positive response to a propaganda video.

      4. Saigua

        Bloom filters at Stainsbury's are $600k and 0.00 01 BTC, that's the way it is.

        I wonder how much from Albertson's will get incorrectly flagged.

        This will probably put the lid on the Theresa May bits where she wonders about shorting those people engaged in Labor; just when the exact opposite of what it supposedly discusses (plus honorifics and NHS LSD microdosing ad libum for the people who voted stay, and not waiting to TKO the rest of the wait or EU exit or probably poorly coined political terms in general) is earnestly needed.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      The department claimed the algorithm has an "extremely high degree of accuracy", with only 50 out of a million randomly selected videos requiring additional human review.

      1) 'Randomly Selected' - Permanent Undersecretary of State's Pornhub bookmarked favourites?

      2) '50 out of a million requiring additional human review' - there were some Pornhub videos he hadn't watched yet?

      3) 'extremely high degree of accuracy' - CivilServantSpeak for 'Capita says they have fixed the bugs'.

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Doubtless this has been independently verified and its training set as well as the algorithm are open for inspection.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If you can do it for that dataset what's to stop it being used for other datasets...a slippery slope...TMay blocking anti May sites...just imagine no May day...no distress calls.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      False Positive rate ?

      Probably includes anything that involves criticism of the current lot or videos of former Home Secretaries in French Maids' outfits.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: False Positive rate ?

        >former Home Secretaries in French Maids' outfits.

        As an equal-opportunities person, I'm happy to say that that prospect appals me, regardless of the gender of the former HS.

    4. Nick Kew Silver badge
      Headmaster

      I guess we've entered the age where ...

      Where have you been this past decade?

      Of course I agree with the point you were making. It's your wording I take issue with.

    5. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. JLV Silver badge

        >Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

        colere patronos

        Their campaign contributors, who else?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Come on. It's progress. They used to burn books.

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge
        Coat

        "They used to burn books.

        IRTA "They used to bum books."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > "used to bum"

          How did you train your brain in such a way? I shudder to think

    7. macjules Silver badge

      Actually it is not 'used' by the Government at all. the purpose of the software is to intercept the upload process and prevent the video actually making it online to Vimeo, Youtube etc., whom I presume would be requested to integrate the ASI software into their sites.

      More information here

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        @macjules - What really impressed me about that presentation is that they already have a coffee mug branded with their platform name. This must be mature, reliable technology, right?

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oops... sorry we forgot to mention the trojan that was included for free

      We would like to use this blocking tool and it does nothing else honest :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oops... sorry we forgot to mention the trojan that was included for free

        > We would like to use this blocking tool and it does nothing else honest :)

        It's more appropriate with the missing comma after "else" !

    9. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @wolfetone

      Well this is fantastic. I guess we've entered the age where the Government will be able to censor material from the public without the public ever really knowing.

      Yes, the slippery sloop has been trod upon and there's no telling how steep it is or how slippery. What's next... political parties added to the mix? Anything on the whim of government wanting to ban? I'm surprised a certain leader hasn't jumped in on this about "fake news"....

  2. TRT Silver badge

    "unnamed algorithm"

    I don't believe it.

    £600,000 = £500,000 for the fact-finding market analysis and spin team, £90,000 for cost over-run protection and £10,000 for actual work. The very least they are going to get out of it is a decent acronym to name their tool with.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: "unnamed algorithm"

      I can suggest names for free. "Big Brother" or "Maybot".

      1. DaveTheForensicAnalyst

        Re: "unnamed algorithm"

        I was going to go with "Rudd's Crud"

        1. Captain Hogwash

          Re: "unnamed algorithm"

          Ruddy hell!

        2. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: "unnamed algorithm"

          "I was going to go with "Rudd's Crud""

          Comprehensive Restriction of Upload and Download by DAESH

          or CRUDD

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re:[ "unnamed algorithm"].... I was thinking more

            Automated

            Detection of

            Extremist

            Propaganda

            Transmission

            There you go. Snappy, took 2 minutes to come up with, apt... belies the reality. That'll be £6 million please. More likely:

            British

            Internet

            Governance

            Jihadi

            Information

            Zerg

            Upload

            Monitoring

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: "unnamed algorithm"

            ...by DAESH

            That's ok, I like my extremism in english, so I go looking for ISIS.

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: "unnamed algorithm"

        How about ESPY? Expert System Probes You.

      3. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: "unnamed algorithm"

        I can suggest names for free. "Big Brother" or "Maybot".

        The name Maybot is already in use.

        Sadly, I found Maybot to be rather unconvincing. It made far too much sense and showed too much human feeling to pass for the real thing. But with further development it can only improve.

        1. monty75 Silver badge

          Re: "unnamed algorithm"

          The name Maybot is already in use.

          John Crace got there long before

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: "unnamed algorithm"

      CensorBot.

      Soon to be forked by every other Government Department, Quango and busybody who thinks they are entitled to block random content regardless of the actual legislation. (CEOP, FACT, Movie Pigopolists, City of London Plod - I'm looking at you)

      The Capita cubicle slaves in some dodgy offshore tech hub are going to be busy operating the master blacklist that it really runs off.The "AI" is just a randomiser on the top.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "unnamed algorithm"

      They could name a boat after it, the censorship or they could call it ruddy mc c*ntface

    4. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: "unnamed algorithm"

      As for the project logo, may I suggest a picture of smugly grinning Stalin?

      http://www.onlygossip.net/public/upload/images/2/1/b/54540a22ea45a_.jpg

  3. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Joke

    detects 94 per cent of Daesh propaganda with 99.995 per cent accuracy

    60% of the time, it works every time.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: detects 94 per cent of Daesh propaganda with 99.995 per cent accuracy

      What does that actually mean? Either it detects something as what it's looking for or it doesn't. If it detects 94% than that's a meaningful figure. But what does "with 99.99f% accuracy" mean? Unless it's a means of saying it has 0.005% false positives - which they could say more explicitly - I can't see that it has any meaning at all. I would instinctively distrust anyone who produces a statement like that. OTOH I suppose there might have been something meaningful that went into the Rudd "I don't really understand it but it went something like this" regurgitation mill.

      I wish she and Davis would swap jobs. He seems to have his head screwed on right about the Home Office and its doings while she seems sound on Brexit.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: detects 94 per cent of Daesh propaganda with 99.995 per cent accuracy

        I read that as "it has a 6% false negative rate, and a 0.005% false positive rate". It's expressed clumsily, but it's weighted towards false negatives, which is a good thing.

  4. Buzzword

    99.995% is impossible

    Even humans aren’t that accurate.

    If you’re positively identifying terror videos at that rate, you must have a huge false-positive rate. So a movie like Mad Max Fury Road, featuring fighty young people with big guns on dusty desert roads, would probably be flagged as jihadi propaganda.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: 99.995% is impossible

      Peppa Pig dubbed in Arabic

      1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

        Re: 99.995% is impossible

        You laugh but an episode of Peppa Pig is banned in Australia...

        (for saying spiders aren't dangerous, basically, which is a little bit misleading in Oz...)

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: 99.995% is impossible

          "You laugh but an episode of Peppa Pig is banned in Australia...

          (for saying spiders aren't dangerous, basically, which is a little bit misleading in Oz...)"

          More fool them for living in a country that's trying to kill them every day.

          1. onefang Silver badge

            Re: 99.995% is impossible

            "More fool them for living in a country that's trying to kill them every day."

            Only on days with a 'Y' in them.

        2. onefang Silver badge

          Re: 99.995% is impossible

          "You laugh but an episode of Peppa Pig is banned in Australia...

          (for saying spiders aren't dangerous, basically, which is a little bit misleading in Oz...)"

          There's only three dangerous to people spiders in Oz, funnel web spider, jump spider, and red back spider. The jumping bird spider is only dangerous to birds, and that one that went viral carting a mouse up the side of a 'fridge, well it was just helping it's mate get to the cold cheese. As for the so called dangerous white tail spider, that one's a myth.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 99.995% is impossible

            "As for the so called dangerous white tail spider, that one's a myth."

            Whitetails are aggressive (most spiders try and run away, white tails attack) and whilst not particularly venomous seem to have pretty filthy fangs which lead to a high chance of infection when they bite.

            A friend in New Zealand lost a finger (actually the entire metatarsal back to the wrist) after being bitten by one. Apparently it still aches 20 years later.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Peppa Pig dubbed in Arabic

        The sad part is that they never get to taste it.

        1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Peppa Pig dubbed in Arabic

          That can't be kosher!

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Peppa Pig dubbed in Arabic

          The sad part is that they never get to taste it

          Not every Arab is Muslim y'know.

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: 99.995% is impossible

      > 99.995% is impossible

      Not at all impossible for the test's they'll have run.

      If you've _very_ carefully curated your test content, with an eye to claiming a high headline effectiveness rate you could quite easily score damn near 100% (though you don't want 100, because people would question that). Of course, the Government would *never* massage figures, so it couldn't possibly be they're using the best result from a test designed to prove it works (rather than look for failure scenarios)

      In real world conditions, definitely not going to happen.

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