Religious extremism is one of the biggest concerns facing the world today, and many young people take their first steps towards radicalisation with a simple online search. Groups such as ISIS regularly use social media to spread propaganda and find new recruits. It’s important for tech companies to limit the negative effects of the internet whenever possible.
After being challenged by MPs to take a more active role in combating this problem, Google have now launched a pilot programme in an attempt to discourage people who search for extremist content online. The new free Google AdWords Grant project will allow eligible anti-terrorism organisations to run their ads against the search queries of their choice, such as “join ISIS.” There are two main components to the programme: people who enter extremist terms into the search engine will be shown links to anti-radicalisation sites, and anti-radicalisation videos will become much easier to find. Terrorism-related websites won’t be hidden, but the countering views will be given centre stage.
Google have stated that the goal of this initiative is to help people find positive online communities rather than negative influences which could lead them to extremism. Facebook have also been under pressure to take action against militants, and has set up a counter terrorism squad as part of its Community Operations team. Their job is to identify and remove harmful material, as well as responding to reports from Facebook users who are concerned about terrorist content.
By its very nature, the internet is an open and free place, which can be great but can also lead to harmful activity. Online giants such as Facebook and Google have a responsibility to strike the right balance between censorship and keeping users safe from potentially dangerous content. It seems that these new schemes will be a step in the right direction.