Reports from dedicated government Internet Referral Units (IRUs) are one important way that extremist sites are bought to our attention. The information below represents the number of IRU requests we received between January 1, 2018 – December 31, 2021 to remove content from WordPress.com sites.
Select a time period from the menu for more detailed information.
Like most online hosts, we do not pre-screen the content that our millions of users post to our services. We evaluate reports of content that go against our User Guidelines or Terms of Service, and take some measures to proactively find spam or other abusive content that’s posted to our services. We try to make the process for reporting abusive or illegal sites as transparent and simple as possible. If you see a site that you think violates our policies, please report it to us here.
One category of content that has been a focus for law enforcement and all internet companies—including Automattic—is terrorist or extremist propaganda.
Policies Against Extremism
We have worked in conjunction with experts in online violent extremism such as GIFCT and Tech Against Terrorism, as well as law enforcement, to develop policies that specifically address terrorist propaganda. You can view our policies here. In short, we suspend websites that call for violence or that are connected to officially designated terrorist groups (per the US Treasury’s OFAC list).
We also have other measures that we implement for sites, short of removal. For example, we may flag content and remove the site from the WordPress.com Reader, making the site’s content more difficult to find. Flagging a site in this way also removes it from all advertising programs that we run.
Internet Referral Units (IRUs) are organizations that have expertise in online propaganda that private technology companies are not able to develop on their own, and they work to identify sites that are being used by known terrorists to spread propaganda or to organize acts of violence. We created a dedicated email address at which they can send their reports, allowing us to more easily identify these reports coming from a trusted source. We work to evaluate and act on reports of terrorist content as quickly and accurately as possible.
We do not automatically remove websites from WordPress.com; a (human) member of our Trust & Safety team reviews each report and makes a decision on whether it violates our policies.
One important reason we review each report is to guard against the removal of material posted to legitimate sites (e.g. news organizations, academic sites), that discuss terrorism or terrorist groups. We host sites for a number of very large news organizations, news bloggers, academics, and researchers who all publish legitimate reporting on terrorism, so context is critical. In another context, some of the materials they publish may qualify as terrorist propaganda, and would be removed under our policies. Although it involves some work to review each report we receive, we do so because we take the task of protecting legitimate speech seriously.