Google is great at helping you get to where you want to go online, but now the search engine is working to redirect some high-risk individuals toward material that could potentially save lives, Wired reports. Jigsaw, a Google-owned think tank, is redirecting potential recruits to the Islamic State away from radical Islamist propaganda and toward videos that debunk the terrorist group’s promises:
The program, which Jigsaw calls the Redirect Method and plans to launch in a new phase this month, places advertising alongside results for any keywords and phrases that Jigsaw has determined people attracted to ISIS commonly search for. Those ads link to Arabic- and English-language YouTube channels that pull together preexisting videos Jigsaw believes can effectively undo ISIS’s brainwashing — clips like testimonials from former extremists, imams denouncing ISIS’s corruption of Islam, and surreptitiously filmed clips inside the group’s dysfunctional caliphate in Northern Syria and Iraq.
“This came out of an observation that there’s a lot of online demand for ISIS material, but there are also a lot of credible organic voices online debunking their narratives,” says Yasmin Green, Jigsaw’s head of research and development. “The Redirect Method is at its heart a targeted advertising campaign: Let’s take these individuals who are vulnerable to ISIS’ recruitment messaging and instead show them information that refutes it.” [Wired]
It’s working, too: In two months of testing, over 300,000 people visited the anti-ISIS YouTube channels, and those who clicked on the campaigns spent even more time on the videos than people who casually browse YouTube. “These are people making decisions based on partial, bad information. We can affect the problem of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State by arming individuals with more and better information,” said Yasmin Green, Jigsaw’s head of research and development.
The next step will be launching the program to target North American extremists, Wired reports, specifically targeting potential ISIS recruits as well as white supremacists.
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