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Google Has An Ambitious Plan To Dissuade People From Joining ISIS

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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Google is now placing anti-Islamic State ads and videos next to ISIS propaganda on YouTube in an ambitious attempt to dissuade people from joining the terror group.

The “Redirect Method” attempts to draw would-be jihadis away from ISIS propaganda by placing ads alongside the propaganda that links back to a collection of YouTube videos unsympathetic to ISIS, reports Wired. It’s a brainchild of Jigsaw, a Google-owned think tank previously known as Google Ideas.

“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,” Yasmin Green, who oversees research and development at Jigsaw, told Wired. (RELATED: YouTube Is Pairing 2016 Candidate Campaign Ads With ISIS Propaganda)

The program uses more than 1,700 keywords and phrases Jigsaw has determined potential ISIS recruits search for, such as “Fatwa for jihad in Syria” or the names of extremist leaders, in order to figure out where to place the ads on YouTube. The ads themselves are ambiguous, sometimes asking questions such as “Is ISIS Legitimate” in order to get the person to click on the ad and go to the anti-ISIS videos.

More than 300,000 people were drawn to the YouTube content in about two months of the program’s pilot earlier this year, and Wired reports users clicked on the anti-ISIS ads three times more often than is typical for ads and spent more time in the videos than is typical.

The campaign would supplement existing efforts to remove or disrupt the propaganda. Two elite U.S. military cyber units are actively fighting the propaganda in the digital sphere, for example, by amplifying anti-ISIS messages and disrupting or refuting propaganda. But the Jigsaw campaign is not aimed at policing or tracking the potential recruits, but at convincing them not to move forward.

The program fits well into Google’s mission “to make the world’s information accessible and useful,” Green told Wired. “We can affect the problem of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State by arming individuals with more and better information.”

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