Combating Online Extremism

The internet has proven to be wonderful in many respects, particularly in the way it has made communication so quick and simple. Unfortunately, it also has its darker aspects. That ability to get a message out with little expense or expertise has allowed those with radical agendas to reach a much wider audience than their predecessors just 20 years ago.

Online recruiting has been cited as a key way in which groups get new members and radicalize those who might not be able to travel to areas of the world where such groups flourish. The spread of divisive, distorted propaganda can also be used to turn the tide against sections of the population that these groups wish to target.

Social media providers like Facebook and Twitter have policies in place to deal with such material when it arises on their sites. However, when people alert a provider about an offensive post, it can take time for someone to check and pull it down.

Video sites such as YouTube and Google are also having their own issues. Free speech rules vary country-by-country and what might be free speech in some regions could be seen as inflammatory rhetoric in others. Thus, videos have to be analyzed carefully in order to determine whether they cross the line and do indeed violate site regulations. Because of the vagaries involved in reviewing content, there isn’t really any way currently for such monitoring to be automated.

That said, these providers continue to do their best. Google announced plans to step up its efforts by doubling the number of independent experts that it uses to identify and flag such troubling material. This would allow said content to be removed faster, thus reducing its potential audience. In the area of videos, Google also plans to step up its efforts to either take down or content flag material that is in violation of its user policies.