‘The Uncomfortable Truth’: Google Vows To Do More To Fight Terrorism

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A Google executive pledged Sunday to do more to stop bad actors like terrorists from using the platform for their nefarious endeavors.

“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. Now,” Kent Walker, general counsel and senior vice president for Google, wrote in an op-ed for the Financial Times. “Today, we are pledging to take four additional steps.”

Although listed as the last measure, the company’s plan to divert terrorist propaganda from users who request it is perhaps the most novel. Walker says that YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, will soon use a “redirect method” to show potential ISIS recruits anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining the terrorist organization and becoming radicalized in general.

The first formally listed step includes identifying and removing “extremist and terrorism-related” videos. While Walker admits that “this can be challenging” since terrorists, or their attacks, can be featured in informative news content, he says they will use more engineering resources to improve their “analysis models” and “advanced machine learning.”

Google also intends to train new “content classifiers” in order to more quickly pinpoint videos created by terrorists without cleansing YouTube or other platforms of rightful content.

The second step, which directly accompanies the first, is to appoint more independent experts in YouTube’s flagging program. Along with the improvement to its algorithms and artificial intelligence, the tech conglomerate is going to increase both the number of in-house and external content analyzers respectively, according to Walker himself.

“While many user flags can be inaccurate, Trusted Flagger reports are accurate more than 90 per cent of the time and help us scale our efforts and identify emerging areas of concern,” Walker continued. “We will expand this programme by adding 50 expert NGOs to the 63 organisations who are already part of the programme, and we will support them with operational grants.” (RELATED: Orlando Nightclub Victim Families Sue Facebook, Twitter, Google For Providing ‘Material Support’ To ISIS)

Walker also says they will no longer monetize videos that contain “inflammatory religious or supremacist” material, and will provide a warning before offering such content. What the criteria or threshold for such kinds of content will be is not yet known, though, meaning appropriate or permitted material may ultimately be purged.

To help make these ideas come to fruition and harness the full potential of the private sector’s capabilities, Walker says its collaborating with other industry colleagues like Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter. (RELATED: Diplomat Says Tech Giants Have More Power Than Most Countries)

Walker’s detailed announcement comes after a number of European officials and governing bodies in recent months have pressured the larger tech community of Silicon Valley to do even more in combating “fake news,” hate speech and terrorist propaganda on their platforms.

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