Online Radicalization Becomes Prolific, Will Jigsaw Counter with Its Technology?

Based on experiences of researchers at Jigsaw, the timing is a critical factor. Once people are sold out to jihad ideology, it is too late to convince them to not join the group. They need to be targeted when they are prone to join, but not yet committed.

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Online Radicalization Becomes Prolific, Will Jigsaw Counter With Its Technology
Online Radicalization Gets Widespread, Will Major Companies Counter Sooner?

Major internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others have been facing huge problems in terms of misuse of platforms. Some of the major issues include fake news, online radicalization, and hate speech. Moreover, Russian meddling in 2016 Presidential elections in the U.S. was addition to their problems. They gave a presentation in front of the Congress to determine measures taken by them to counter such issues. They have begun implementing various algorithms to weed out content that could lead to violence, spread fake news, and motivate people to join terrorist groups.

Online radicalization has become widespread and terrorist groups have been influencing people with their philosophy to join their groups. However, this strategy has been working for them and they have been getting recruits, whom they train to carry out violent operations in the future. Jigsaw, an arm of Alphabet has a group of 60 specialists, which include research scientists, software engineers, and product managers to counter online radicalization. The team has been going an extra mile. Instead of relying on online algorithms to counter hate-inspiring content, they have been visiting sites and gathering information.

Yasmin Green, director of research and development at Jigsaw, spoke to MIT Technology Review about the methods conducted by the group to counter online radicalization. Though Jigsaw deals with online threats posed by violence enticing groups, they want to build a strategy and technology to counter by understanding human experiences. A team of researchers visit the sites where people face the challenges they have been trying to tackle. The team tries to understand the online radicalization process through human elements along with implementation of technology. They could understand how people discovered ISIS, the recruitment process, and usefulness of technology for terrorist groups.

Researchers also discovered that terrorist groups have been using the power of microtargeting effectively. They have been creating content in various languages along with sign language to influence people. They create recruiting material and distribute through social media platforms to people at every corner of the world. They also create content such as bomb-making and beheadings that should not be posted on the social media or anywhere on the internet. The aim of the research team was to determine how people are influenced to join organizations such as ISIS. They found that the groups were able to convince people that it is religiously legitimate, and the objective of jihad is a religious duty.

Based on their experiences, they found out that the timing is a critical factor. Once people are sold out to their ideology, it is too late to convince them not to join the group. They need to be targeted when they are prone to join, but not yet joined. So, researchers designed a redirect method through targeted advertising. They target ads toward people who are prone to join terrorist groups, but not committed yet, and redirect them to online videos from defectors, clerics, and journalists to distract them from joining.

This method helped them to reach around 32,000 people. The ads had high click-through rate and led to half a million minutes of video time. After the successful pilot, YouTube integrated this method in its search results. This method is influencing a huge number of people to not join the terrorist groups and avoid spreading violence in the world. The research is ongoing and will give more effective results as it progresses.

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