How Tech Companies Are Fighting Terrorism

June 23, 2017 • Devin Partida


Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS have long used the internet to bring in new recruits and radicalize potential members. ISIS, in particular, shows an exceptional mastery of modern digital tools and social media, and regularly releases and spreads propaganda on viral levels. Anyone fighting terrorism has a tough time going head to head with a major, media-centric group such as ISIS.

They’re pretty much winning the internet because they know how to use it to spread their influence far and wide. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people and organizations trying to thwart their efforts. Fighting terrorism is an endless responsibility that happens 24/7, even while we sleep.

Many tech companies, for example, spend their time fighting terrorism as best as they can. With all the bad rap some of these companies get, it’s tough to imagine major corporations like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others spending time as modern-day heroes, but they are.

How the Tech World Fights Terrorism

Google already has a plan in place to fight extremist terrorism, thanks to a department called Jigsaw — previously the Google Alphabet “think tank” team.

The team focuses on eliminating the ease of use with which militant groups like ISIS have been recruiting new members on their platforms and across the web. They’re approaching it as more of an access-to-information problem, doing their best to hinder propaganda and misinformation.

Yasmin Green, head of research and development on the Jigsaw team, outlined several ways they are trying to prevent militant groups from spreading their lies. One of the most effective is to provide alternative answers to questions interested parties have, which lead them in the opposite direction of joining.

In other words, when they search for information on things like the “military prowess” of a radicalized group, they get more realistic answers instead of the exaggerated propaganda they would usually see from terrorist members.

Facebook, which has long received scrutiny for their lax policies on harmful content, is now upping their game. Zuckerberg announced the company would be hiring another 3,000 employees with the primary responsibility of removing harmful and “terrorist-supporting” content from the network.

A Collaborate Effort Against Terrorist Activity

In addition, several platforms, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, have been working collaboratively to scrub images and videos that promote terrorism from their networks. All flagged content is added to a central database, and, once something has been flagged even on a single service, neighboring companies can remove and ban copies or clones.

This means viral and propaganda videos added by militant groups can be flagged and removed within hours of posting instead of days or weeks. And that’s important because the longer this content stays visible, the more potential members and recruits see it.

These groups thrive on false information and exaggerated claims. In fact, it has become so extreme that even leaders of one group are denouncing other groups — like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Fighting Terrorism

The Best and Brightest at Work

The main takeaway is that major corporations and organizations in the tech world are using both their networks and influence to hinder terrorist groups like ISIS. Since the internet and social media are one of the best modern-day recruiting tools these groups have in their arsenal, slowing down the spread of information will mark a win for those working to stop terrorists.

But will this actually slow their efforts? Will this form of battling terrorism actually have its place in modern policing, and will it do anything to stop potential members from joining or carrying out horrible attacks?

It remains to be seen, but the major players in the tech market are trying to do something about it, and they’re smarter than terrorists.