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YouTube rolls out anti-terrorism initiative

News, 24 July 2017
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SAN FRANCISCO: Stung by criticism earlier this year that it wasn't doing enough to combat online extremism, YouTube has now launched software that redirects would-be jihadists to anti-hate videos aimed at debunking extremist narratives.

The Google-owned video-sharing platform announced in a blog post that the new tool was developed by Google's Jigsaw think tank working in partnership with Moonshot CVE, a counter-extremism organisation.

They created the Redirect Method, which uses Adwords targeted tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people across the world, in a bid to steer potential recruits to so-called Islamic State (ISIS) away from the terror group's propaganda.

Instead, when people carry out searches using certain keywords on YouTube, they will be redirected to videos that confront the ISIS message of hate.

"This early product integration of the Redirect Method on YouTube is our latest effort to provide more resources and more content that can help change minds of people at risk of being radicalized," the blog post read.

YouTube added that it will continue working with expert non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to develop new counter-extremism video content suitable for each stage of the indoctrination process.

Machine learning also will be used to "dynamically update the search query terms", while the Redirect Method will be expanded in Europe with its functionality broadened to deal with languages beyond English.

"This work is made possible by our partnerships with NGOs that are experts in this field, and we will continue to collaborate closely with them to help support their research through our technological tools," YouTube said.

According to the Redirect Method's website, the new tool was developed after an eight-week trial during which more than 320,000 people viewed around 500,000 minutes of video footage.

The research team also spoke directly with people who had been convinced by ISIS rhetoric, such as defectors and former "jihadi brides".

Research confirmed that online videos of citizen testimonies, on-the-ground reports and religious debates proved better at conveying anti-extremist messages than official or government-sponsored material.

"ISIS wouldn't be deploying such efforts online if they didn't think people were actively looking for content. And sadly there are too many doing so," the researchers explained.

"We've built the Redirect Method to add to the arsenal of tools available to address this reality, to ensure that those browsing the internet with precise questions around violent extremism and the Caliphate get answers from the many voices debunking ISIS recruitment narratives."

Data sourced from YouTube, Redirect Method; additional content by WARC staff

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