Google ramps up efforts to combat online terrorism, recruitment efforts

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Google announced Sunday that it is taking additional steps to prevent online terrorism using Google-owned platforms, according to a company blog post.

The company denounced the use of its websites to disseminate terrorist recruitment materials, most prominently YouTube, calling on industry to step up and participate in prevention.

“While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done,” said Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel of Google.

Google, and similar companies that own social media websites, must toe the line between freedom of speech and responsibility for security. Google stated that their increased efforts are a good balance between the two.

Its four-pronged mission intensifies the technological efforts it has already taken against extremist content.

Over the past six months, it has used video analysis models to remove over half of the terrorism-related content. However, a computer model has trouble distinguishing between footage of a terrorist attach used for information versus footage used to edify the killing of innocents.

To counter this, Google is increasing the participants in its Trusted Flagger program, which claims 90 percent accuracy in flagging problematic content. It is also partnering with 50 NGOs and 63 organizations with expertise in hate speech and terrorism.

Google is also taking a tougher stance on YouTube videos that do not clearly violate their policies, but still contain “inflammatory religious or supremacist content.” Warnings will appear before and during these videos and they would not have the option to be monetized. Further, these videos will not be able to be user-endorsed or commented on, decreasing user-interaction.

“We think this strikes the right balance between free expression and access to information without promoting extremely offensive viewpoints,” Walker said.

Further, YouTube will work to counter these radical ideas by presenting targeted counter-extremism advertising, called the “Redirect Method,” which hopes to prevent extremists before they even act by presenting other viewpoints. In previous uses of this method, users watched over a half million minutes of counter-terrorism messaging.

Google has also partnered with companies that are facing similar issues, including Facebook and Twitter, to establish a forum for development of counter-terrorism technology and to assist smaller companies that face the same problem without the means to develop their own programs.

“We’ll keep working on the problem until we get the balance right. Extremists and terrorists seek to attack and erode not just our security, but also our values; the very things that make our societies open and free,” Walker said. “It is a sweeping and complex challenge. We are committed to playing our part.”