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story.lead_photo.caption British Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

UNITED NATIONS -- The leaders of Britain, France and Italy have set a goal of taking down within an hour or two online posts that promote terrorism.

Convening world and tech leaders Wednesday at the United Nations, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Internet companies are making progress but need to go "further and faster" to keep violent extremist material from spreading online.

The average life span of Islamic State extremists' online propaganda shrank from six days to 36 hours in the first six months of this year, May said.

"That is still 36 hours too long," she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni joined May in leading what she called a first-of-its-kind session on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting of global leaders.

Internet services are facing increasing pressure to rid themselves of messages that, authorities say, provide inspiration and instructions for militant attacks.

With potential legal consequences looming -- May and Macron have suggested their countries could impose legal liability and fines if tech companies don't do enough to deal with extremist material -- online giants are eager to show they're taking the problem seriously.

This summer, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube began a joint counterterrorism initiative to collaborate on technology and work with experts. Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook announced that it had started using its artificial intelligence capabilities to find and remove extremist content, as it does to block child pornography. The company now has 150 engineers, content reviewers, language specialists, academics and former law enforcement figures focused on counterterrorism, Monika Bickert, global policy and counterterrorism chief for Facebook, told the U.N. gathering Wednesday.

San Francisco-based Twitter recently said it suspended 300,000 accounts for promoting terrorism just in the first six months of this year, the majority flagged by its own internal efforts before posting anything.

YouTube has more than doubled the number of violent extremist videos removed in recent months, Google Senior Vice President Kent Walker said Wednesday while announcing that the Mountain View, Calif., company would commit millions of dollars to research on curbing extremist content online.

"Removing all of this content within a few hours, or even stopping it from getting there in the first place, poses an enormous technological and scientific challenge that we continue to undertake," he told the world leaders. "The haystacks here are unimaginably large, and the needles are both really small and constantly changing."

A Section on 09/22/2017

Print Headline: Leaders target terrorist posts

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