Date
23 October 2017
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (center) meets Google executives at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Photo: france24.com
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (center) meets Google executives at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Photo: france24.com

Tech giants wage war on terror

Google is leading an effort to fight terrorism online.

Parent Alphabet Inc. is funding the initiative, with help from Facebook and Twitter, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The group produced videos as part of an experiment on how to use online advertising to counterbalance the growing wave of extremist propaganda on the internet.

Nearly half a million teenagers and young adults who had posted content with terms like “sharia” or “mujahideen” began last fall seeing a series of animated videos pop up on their Facebook news feeds.

In one, cartoon figures with guns appear underneath an Islamic State flag.

“Do not be confused by what extremists say, that you must reject the new world. You don’t need to pick,” the narrator says.

“Remember, peace up. Extremist thinking out.”

The goal is to see what kinds of messages and targeting could reach potential extremists before they become radicalized — and then quickly roll the model out to content producers across the internet.

The study, detailed in a report set to be published Monday by London-based think tank Institute for Strategic Dialogue, is a step toward understanding what techniques work, said Yasmin Green, who heads the counter-radicalization efforts at Jigsaw, the Alphabet unit formerly known as Google Ideas.

“At the end of the day, it is a battle of ideas,” said Zahed Amanullah, head of the counter-narrative program at Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

A wave of violent attacks by radicalized individuals or small groups has killed hundreds in Europe, Asia and the US over the past two months.

In many cases, such as the attacks in Nice, France, and Orlando, Florida, officials say propaganda and violent internet material has played a role in driving attackers to action.

But Islamic State is fast to open new accounts and expand its propaganda to new apps, leading to a game of whack-a-mole.

“It’s simply impossible to remove it all,” said Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center.

“Even if one platform successfully takes something down, usually that content is available somewhere else.”

Government efforts to launch counter-narrative campaigns against the remaining propaganda have often fallen flat.

“Once the message is stamped ‘government,’ for many young people, it’s tainted,” said one French official.

– Contact us at [email protected]

RA

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