Google has made a name for itself out of discerning exactly what people want (and when they want it) based on just a few words they type into a search box. According to a recent piece for Wired it’s in the process of helping people find what they’re looking for, that Google stumbled upon a powerful tool for getting “inside the minds of some of the least understood and most dangerous people on the Internet: potential ISIS recruits.”
Jigsaw, the Google-owned tech think tank perviously known as Google Ideas, is working to not just understand the intentions of potential ISIS recruits but to actively change them. Over the past year the idea incubator has been working on a program that it says can use a combination of Google’s own search algorithms and YouTube’s expansive video platform to specifically target aspiring ISIS recruits and dissuade them from joining. The program is known as the Redirect Method and is set to launch a new phase later this month. This particular phase will place advertising alongside results for any keywords or phrases that Jigsaw’s team has determined people who are attracted to ISIS usually search for. Then those ads link to Arabic and English YouTube channels that aggregate preexisting videos that Jigsaw believes would effectively counter the ISIS mindset. Videos such as testimonials from former members, imams denouncing ISIS’s corruption of Islam and the rampant disfunction within the groups strongholds. According to Wired, results from a pilot program Jigsaw ran earlier this year showed that over roughly two months “more than 300,000 people were navigated to the anti-ISIS YouTube channels. Searchers actually clicked on Jigsaw’s three or four times more often than a typical ad campaign. Those who clicked spent more than twice as long viewing the most effective playlists than the best estimates of how long people view YouTube as a whole.”
“This came out of an observation that there’s a lot of online demand for ISIS material, but there are also a lot of credible organic voices online debunking their narratives,” Yasmin Green, Jigsaw’s head of research and development told Weird. “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.”
This month, alongside the London-based startup Moonshot Countering Violent Extremism and the US-based Gen Next Foundation, Jigsaw is set to relaunch its successful program with its second phase — one that will focus on North American ISIS sympathizers, using it’s method to find not only potential ISIS recruits but violent white supremacists.