Using Google, Twitter and Facebook to counter extremism

Google parent company Alphabet has funded experiments testing how the tools of online advertising can be used to counter extremist messages, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The experiments are part of an effort to counteract the ability of terrorist and extremist groups to reach new recruits or sympathizers using social media.

In recent years, internet firms have come under fire for the proliferation of extremist accounts on their platforms that have been key in recruiting young members around the world.

While companies have policies in place to try to get rid of these accounts, the effort has been described as “whack-a-mole,” because it’s often easy for people to create new ones.

These experiments appear to be an effort to offer a different kind of solution than closing accounts — counteract the ideas.

In a series of three-week-long experiments involving Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the U.S., U.K. and Pakistan, people online were exposed to three campaigns 1.6 million times with 379,000 video views, according to a study by Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based nonprofit.

The so-called “counter radicalization” effort is an attempt to learn what kinds of targeting works when counteracting messages of extremism online, Zahed Amanullah, head of the counter-narrative program at the Institute, told the Journal:

At the end of the day, it is a battle of ideas….The classic question is ‘How many people have you prevented from becoming terrorists?’ Which you can’t answer.

Alphabet has contributed an undisclosed amount to the project, with Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet’s YouTube donating advertising credits.

In one example, animated videos explaining Islam and criticizing jihadist groups were aimed at U.S. teens. In another, a group in Pakistan showed anti-Taliban videos.

Did they work? The most concrete result is that eight people sought help to leave white supremacist groups.

But there were “windows of opportunity,” such as when people commented negatively on videos and engaged in extended conversations, Amanullah said.

Above: The Twitter icon on an iPhone. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Terrorist: What the big army calls the little army. Unless of course, the little army is useful in promoting the anti-terror agenda of the owners of the big army. Look at the big picture, from colonialism to the Neocon call for a New Pearl Harbor.