Google has a serious problem with terrorists using its platforms and at the weekend it reveal plans to combat violent extremism online.

The plan is comprised of four steps and was detailed by Google’s own Kent Walker.

“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,” Walker wrote in a blog post.

The first step Google will take is to increase the use of “content classifiers” to identify extremist and terrorism-related videos.

The firm does admit that this is tricky as news content about a terrorist attack could be (and has been in the past) flagged as undesirable content. Let’s hope Google can finally get this right.

The human element

The next step involves humans. “Machines can help identify problematic videos, but human experts still play a role in nuanced decisions about the line between violent propaganda and religious or newsworthy speech,” writes Walker.

Google will expand its Trusted Flagger programme to include 50 additional NGOs which will flag content that should not be on platforms such as YouTube. Google will support these NGOs with operational grants.

The final steps in Google’s plan are interesting. One of Google’s plans involves applying a chokehold on videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content.

Simply put, content of this nature will first present the viewer with a warning and that video will not be monestised and won’t appear as a recommended video. Beyond that comments and endorsements will be disabled.

Bait and a Google switch

By working with Jigsaw, Google hopes to implement a Redirect Method more widely across Europe. To describe it simply, adverts that attempt to lure folks to join the ranks of a terrorist organisation will redirect users to content that debunk terrorist recruiting messages.

Perhaps the most important message in all of this is that Google is trying to balance the need to police its platforms while also trying to create safer spaces for its users.

Whether it manages to get this right without penalising news websites and creators on YouTube that focus on current events, remains to be seen.


[Image – CC BY 2.0 Tyler Merbler]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.