Google Aims To Fight Online Terrorism Through New Policies

June 19, 2017 - Written By Jay Decenella

In a new set of policies and practices, Google has laid out the steps with which it plans to help curb online terrorism in order to address concerns that terrorists have been using the internet to spread their propaganda. Kent Walker, general counsel of the search giant, wrote in an opinion piece published Sunday on the Financial Times that Google intends to expand its technology meant to keep track of terrorism-related videos across the company’s websites, including Google Search and YouTube. Walker said the company has been using video analysis models to search for half of the total number of online videos used for extremist propaganda. The company now plans to increase its engineering resources and leverage advanced machine learning tools.

The Mountain View-based company also plans to hire more people to help detect and remove extremist content. That means more independent experts will be joining YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program to complement machine learning technology. Walker believes that while machines are capable of identifying propaganda videos, humans still have a bigger role in determining “violent propaganda and religious or newsworthy speech.” According to Walker, Google plans to add 50 NGOs to the existing 63 organizations in the program and support them with operational grants. The expert NGOs will work to identify hate speech, terrorism and self-harm, Walker explained. He noted that Trusted Flagger reports can be accurate more than 90 percent of the time, though the general counsel acknowledged that most of the user flags are also inaccurate. Walker added that while some videos may not be officially banned from Google’s sites, the company will work to limit the reach of inflammatory content, adding that there should never be a space for terrorist content on Google’s services. That means videos that contain religious or supremacist agenda will be associated with a warning. Additionally, Google will block any monetization, recommendation and eligibility for comments for those videos, thus significantly reducing engagement with those content. The search giant also intends to augment its coordination with counter-terrorist groups in a bid to identify radical content that may be used to recruit more terrorists.

Google’s announcement of new policies to help combat online terrorism came hot on the heels of the attack in London this month that killed 7 people and injured 48. Lawmakers have since been proposing new laws to monitor how the internet can help curb online terrorism.