When most people think about the fight against terrorism, they think about just about anything but a social media post. Social media is how terrorist spread their propaganda. It’s not how the fight against terrorism is waged. At least it wasn’t until now.
Three experiments, funded by Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGC), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FBC) and Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTRC) are exploring the use of online advertising and the technology behind it to wage social media jihad against jihadists.
Efforts To Date
The new plan described above follows efforts by government agencies worldwide to fight fire with fire. Results of government action have been mixed at best. In part officials say that the messenger (government) is the problem. For one thing, messages sponsored by the very government agencies waging war against ISIS are seen as prejudiced and unconvincing.
Another problem, as Canada, France and other nations found out is that government bureaucracy moves too slow. Muhammed Robert Heft, a de-radicalization counselor in Toronto said, “By the time they actually go through this legislation, even if it takes a few days, it’s still not fast enough to keep up with the propaganda that’s being put out there.”
All Not Lost
Despite problems, the U.S. government says it is slowly but surely winning the Twitter battle against ISIS. According to the American government, terrorist social media influence and ability to recruit is declining.
The statement is backed up by statistics saying ISIS has seen a 45% traffic on the social network over the past two years. This is seen as a direct result of the work of the Global Engagement Center, a U.S. government operation designed to help counter terrorist message and propaganda.
A major part of this program is the use of "credible voices" in local communities to counter the messaging of terrorists.
Beating Isis To The Punch
The new plan is to find ways to broadcast messaging to anyone – especially young people – susceptible to radicalization before they become radicalized. If the experiments are successful, the technology and messaging will be offered to content producers across the Internet – not merely government agencies.
The main goal is to find out what works in order to mitigate what has, so far, been an effective use of social media by radical Islamic fundamentalists like ISIS to recruit vulnerable populations for their cause.
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Strategies In Transition
Even as the study behind the Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter experiments is set to be published Monday, the Islamic State is already changing tactics, something that will require adjustment on the part of any social media campaign against the bad guys.
Fortune reports that with its ‘Caliphate’ shrinking, terrorists are calling for local unsponsored attacks all over the world using “any means available.”
This tactic makes the use of social media, which is available worldwide, to dissuade attacks and discourage lone wolf action even more important. Given the disruptive tragic impact of terrorist attacks on an almost weekly basis, the efforts of these major tech players are not only welcome – they are necessary.