ISIS may soon be restricted to skulking around the dark web if companies start taking the fight to the extremist group and drive them out of the open web. At least that’s what Google’s head of ideas, Jared Cohen, believes.
Cohen, speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, touched on the subject of the spread of online propaganda and what tech companies can do against that. ISIS - also known as Daesh and ISIL - have oftentimes been lauded as “innovators” in the field of spreading terrorist propaganda, thanks to their basic knowledge of social media and video editing tools. As the Guardian points out, all this online attention has made the terrorist organization seem larger than it really is and more attractive to prospective recruits.
And that’s exactly the image that Cohen says companies, including Google, should be fighting against online. Though Cohen quickly admits there’s little chance of driving terrorist organizations offline completely, as many would want, he does believe ISIS’ spread on social media and the wider web that’s visible to search engines can be easily stopped in the short term. He explained:
What Isis is doing is reflective of the times, as opposed to some sort of new sophistication that magically appeared. But while the digital front is more complex, it could be where we can see greater short-term wins, so we should not neglect it.
By forcing the organization off of the open web, its messages and reach would be quickly diminished and the resources at its disposal might be severely restricted. Of course, that wouldn’t mean that ISIS will simply disappear; it just means law enforcement agencies and governments would need to focus more on the dark web, which we know they’re already doing.
Cohen then went on to explain that even though ISIS has started to move towards encrypted services and networks, they’re by no means a tech-savvy organization, operating more like low-level spammers than technological masterminds.
Finally Cohen gave the example of tracking ISIS users and those spreading propaganda by using the same systems that would normally track online shoppers and replacing their content by using targeted advertising.
Google, Facebook, Twitter and other Valley companies are often caught in the middle when trying to balance out issues of free speech and public safety and this conflict is no different, though these companies may soon band together with governments against online extremism.
Source: The Guardian