Facebook, Google, and Twitter combat online extremism with targeted videos

From The Verge:

Facebook, Twitter, and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, participated in three online experiments last year to gauge the effectiveness of counter-messaging campaigns in combatting propaganda from extremist groups. The results, published on Monday in a study from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), suggest that such efforts could be effective in reaching target audiences and driving conversations among them, though it remains unclear whether counter-narratives can actually deter radicalization. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the study, which was funded by Alphabet with additional support from Facebook and Twitter.

Faced with the threat of online radicalization carried out by ISIS and other extremist groups, various organizations and internet companies have begun exploring the use of counter speech: web content that aims to discredit extremist propaganda. The hope is that such campaigns can dissuade people from joining terrorist and far-right groups, or convince those who have joined to leave. And although experts say it’s difficult to quantify the impact that counter-speech could have on reducing radicalization, this week’s study suggests that it can at least be an effective way of sparking dialogue among targeted users.

“It’s very much about whether you’ve reached your audience.”

“Virality is very much a red herring when it comes to counter-narratives,” says Tanya Silverman, project coordinator at ISD and co-author of the study. “It’s very much about whether you’ve reached your audience, and that’s a measure of success.”

The study from ISD, a London-based think tank, is based on three video campaigns launched in October 2015 and targeting users in the US, UK, and Pakistan. A US nonprofit called Average Mohammed published five animated videos to explain Islam and discredit jihadism among Somali teens living in the States; Harakat-ut-Taleem, an anonymous group based in Pakistan, created six videos to deter people from joining the Taliban; and ExitUSA, …

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