Google Reveals Steps to Curb Terrorism

While the Internet has done wonders for humanity, it has also let the dark vices of society go unchecked. Terrorism, 21st century’s greatest dilemma has found the Internet to be its greatest ally. From videos of beheading to bombing threats and the like, the Internet has become a powerful platform for terrorists to spread their propaganda of hate and violence. What is disturbing is the fact that it cannot be easily curbed, controlled or monitored by the world’s largest Internet-based organizations such as Google and Facebook – mediums where terrorists can easily spread their message.

With the recent turmoil and terrorist attacks happening worldwide, these organizations have finally woken up to the reality of terrorism and have acknowledged the need to come up with a stronger plan. But there are challenges that cannot be easily fixed because these platforms are paradoxical in nature. A violent clip may be broadcasted by a news channel as information while the same can be broadcasted by a terrorist group as a warning. It is extremely difficult to label the content and make black and white rules or decisions.

Terrorism is gaining precedence with most recent cases indicating recruitment of candidates via social media and Facebook is yet to come up with a robust action plan. Today, there are literally thousands of terrorist pages still actively working on Facebook spreading their messages of fear and hate easily. In the wake of such activities, these giant organizations are facing the pressure to do more; to implement more sophisticated monitoring technologies, to hire and train more intelligent analysts, to actively participate in keeping the internet safe.

Google’s Four-Step Plan

In one such conscious effort of curbing terrorist activities online, Google, the search engine giant released a four-step plan on 19th June 2017 to fight online terrorism. The company will partner with law agencies, government and civil society groups to control harmful content on YouTube and the web. Although the organization has thousands of people around the world working to keep the platform safe and prevent counter-abuse, it needs to do more. The company has pledged to take four additional and concrete steps in fighting online terrorism and strengthen the company’s efforts in preventing terrorists from making the Internet their breeding ground.

Step 1 – Increasing the Use of Technology

Image-tracking technology has long been put to use to detect violent or graphical images, however, in the era of video uploads and live streaming, this is no longer as effective. Google’s team of engineers are now working to create video analysis models that will help them find, pattern and identify videos of similar nature to be removed. Using AI, along with human expertise in classifying content, Google will attempt to remove all existing terrorist activities. Till now, the company has removed a considerable chunk of such content from the web.

Step 2 – Increasing Human Expertise

While advanced AI models and technology is being deployed to identify, and remove content, human expertise is very much in need. YouTube is massive with more than 300 hours of videos uploaded every minute and more than 5 billion videos watched every day. This means a magnanimous amount of work that could take years if not months to verify and remove. Google intends to speed up this process by increasing the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program. Although some flags can be inaccurate, the Trusted Flagger reports are accurate 90% of the time. The Trusted Program will have an additional 50 NGOs added to the already existing 63 organizations who are part of the program. These organizations with specific background and expertise in handling hate speech, violence, terrorist activities will get support grants from Google to work effectively to curb online terrorism.  Google is also partnering up with counter-extremist organizations to detect extremist and radical views that threaten the fabric of an open society. Getting the involvement of people who have years of expertise working against terrorism is one of the most effective ways Google can fight the abuse of its platform.

Step 3 – Discouraging Violent Videos

Google wants to steer clear of inadvertently squashing freedom of expression with a blanket strategy on all content and to maintain the right balance between expression and extremism, the content will be allowed to be uploaded but will not get easy viewing privileges. This means that videos containing inflammatory religious content or supremacist content will not be, ‘monetized, recommended or eligible for comments.’  They will have less exposure and therefore will be difficult to find. We may not know how Google plans to identify the nature of a video being uploaded but we can assume that they have a working plan. It’s no longer going to be about just content removal, but will also be about content moderation.

Step 4 – Playing the Good Guy

In the last step, Google will try to be the good guy, persuading people interested in joining terrorist activities to change their mind. The company will attempt to do this by using the ‘Redirect Method,’ where targeted online advertising will be employed to reach these candidates and redirect them to anti-terrorist content. Although this seems idealistic and skeptical, Google’s stats claim otherwise. According to them, these ads had an unusually high click rate and over half a million minutes of anti-terrorist video content was viewed. Google will be using its Creators for Change program for this purpose where millions of YouTubers from the world over promote voices of empathy, kindness, tolerance, and peace. It will partner up with Jigsaw, a technology incubator tackling geopolitical problems to create the relevant content.

Finally, Google is also partnering up with industry giants as Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft to implement this program and create a platform to fight against terrorism.

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.