How Major Tech Groups Are Trying to Kill Extremism on the Net
Major tech groups are banding together to fight extremism on the net.
The internet has always been a place where you could see the very extremes of society. Unfortunately, it seems like that may be one of the more toxic aspects of everyone's favorite technology. In recent years, we have been seeing a large rise in political and religious extremism on the net.
The impact of internet extremism isn't hard to see. People fueled by online propaganda and echo chambers are beginning to incite violence against innocent people in reality. Politicians are beginning to side with online hate groups in both overt and underhanded ways.
Online, attackers on both sides of the political spectrum are beginning to attack those who disagree with them. (Though, it seems like most people who are launching attacks are on the far right.)
Studies even suggest that people are becoming increasingly hostile and polarized towards one another, which in turn is causing people to feel safest at work.
Companies are quickly realizing that this extremism could cause mass turmoil throughout the world. In order to save people and help quash toxic ideologies, a number of major tech companies are beginning to put their foot down.
Here's how many major tech companies are helping fuel the fight against extremism on the net.
Facebook is fighting extremism on the net by blocking posts involving hate speech, violence, and other extreme beliefs.
It's pretty obvious that one of the most common ways that hate speech gets propagated is through social media. No one is more aware of this than social media giant, Facebook. Facebook is now leading the pack against extremism on the net — at least, on a social media level.
Though Facebook has always had a somewhat "hands off" policy, for the most part, the social media platform recently began stepping up its enforcements on groups associated with hate speech.
Due to mounting government pressure, Facebook has begun to speed up its process when it came to investigating and also reporting content that could be linked to religious extremism, terrorism, and political violence to authorities.
Representatives believe that they may be able to prevent attacks from happening by stopping Facebook communications in their tracks.
A number of tech groups are also creating programs that scan for hate speech and extremist images online.
The hardest part about dealing with extremism online is that it's hard to actually recognize extremism unless you are looking with a pair of human eyes. Major tech companies are trying to fight this by developing software that recognizes hate speech, religious extremism, and violence-provoking speech — and neutralizes it with an instant ban.
Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all either creating or testing software that recognizes hateful speech and images — and also learns how to evolve along with the new waves of extremism. More impressively, they are actually getting assistance doing so from the military technology complex.
Not too far off in the future, Google may end up making hate speech bad for SEO. Recently, Google has also pledged to use AI to help scout out online extremist groups and remove them from search results.
With this technology, there's hope that we will not need to wait for human reviewers to flag the content to actually have extremist content removed anymore. Needless to say, fighting extremism on the net would be a lot easier.
Google has also promised to strip YouTube of pro-terrorist content.
YouTube is currently one of the biggest recruiting groups for the Islamic State and other extremists. Therefore, it shouldn't be shocking that YouTube's commitment to fighting extremism on the net involved removing content related to terrorism and right wing ideologies.
The company has definitely not been lax about it, either. Within six months of YouTube's promise to remove extremist videos from the platform, around half of all videos labeled as extreme in ideology were taken down.
Moreover, any extremist videos that are left up on YouTube are demoted, and video creators are no longer allowed to make money off views. Those who click on them also have to acknowledge the warning notice that the videos contain supremacist, misogynist, or extremist attitudes.
Reddit removed a lot of boards involving extremist beliefs, hate speech, and supremacist content — or just quarantined them.
Major sharing platform Reddit made a huge stir when they began to ban some of the most popular boards on the internet. Major boards that promoted extremist, supremacist, or otherwise discriminatory beliefs were shut down in an attempt to curb the extremism that the site tends to breed.
However, it seems like most of Reddit's bans only happen when the forum actually leads to serious problems in real life. More specifically, the platform only allows bans of subreddits that have users that harass others.
In recent months, Reddit shut down two major alt-right subreddits for "d0xxing" attacks on people who opposed their beliefs. Earlier on, they shut down the Pizzagate subreddit, which was tied to extremist attacks.
That being said, other alt-right subreddits still exist — as do many other subreddits that have been called extreme. So, while Reddit is halfheartedly attempting to end extremism on the net, they still could do quite a bit more.
Major tech companies are also banding together — and recruiting others for their cause.
Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and a number of other tech companies have come together for the cause of fighting extremism. But, they also recognize that technology alone is only a small part of the battle.
Silicon Valley has made a surprising alliance with both the U.S. military and a number of groups who want to end extremism on the net and in real life. They also have begun to reach out to people who want to help in the fight against extremism on the net.
As a result, they're adding a human factor to their fight against online extremism.
Currently, there are college kids who are being recruited to help prevent people from falling into the abyss of extremism. The college kids are a part of a government-sponsored social media campaigning program, and so far, the program seems to be successful.
Lastly, the biggest companies are also starting to reach out to extremists via targeted ads.
Many companies are now working with programs like Creators for Change to create targeted commercials that help promote anti-hate, anti-violence messages to those who search hateful or extremist terms online.
This is part of an ongoing attempt to get people who are leaning towards extremism help rather than to punish them — and possibly push them further towards extremism on the net.
So far, the companies using targeted ads have said that they've noticed a marked slowdown in "fencesitters" who are currently considering moving towards extremist views.