YouTube redirects “would-be jihadists” to anti-ISIS videos in an attempt to tackle terrorism

An experimental service that redirects searches for ISIS and other extremist material has been launched by YouTube.

The move is part of a larger strategy by YouTube’s parent company Google to combat terrorist content across their platforms, including the video sharing site.

Users searching for select phrases will instead be directed to adverts that discredit claims made by such groups, as well as the organisations themselves.

The Redirect Project was developed with Google’s in-house think tank, Jigsaw, to develop software based on YouTube’s advertising tools.

It began with an eight-week experimental trial, which saw over 320,000 viewers watch more than 500,000 minutes of footage.

The ISIS-focused project relied on research, including interviews with defectors and once-aspiring ‘jihadi brides’, to glean insights into how vulnerable viewers may behave online.

Experts also studied what kinds of materials proved most effective at countering the narratives used by ISIS.

They found that documentaries and material produced by citizen journalists worked better than state sponsored and other official anti-terrorist material.

What they have learned is now being rolled out across YouTube, so that any user searching for extremist propaganda will see the adverts.

In a written statement on the project’s website, a spokesman said: ‘The Redirect Method uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization.

‘It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes.

‘This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.’

The project was run much like any other targeted advertising campaign on the site.

Certain keywords identified by Adwords trigger the redirection to anti-terror videos.

For the Arabic campaigns, Quantum Communications created 60 ad campaigns comprising 150 unique ads and over 1,500 keywords.

For the English campaign, Moonshot CVE created 30 ad campaigns comprising 95 unique ads and over 1,000 keywords.

The keyword generation was focused on terms suggesting positive sentiment towards ISIS.

The project has been made available as an open blueprint, so other platforms and organisations can use it to help counter extremist propaganda.

The Redirect Project was created, in part, to counter claims that Google was lax in addressing the problem of online terrorism.

In one particularly high profile case back in March, the UK Government demanded answers on why taxpayer-funded adverts were supporting extremist videos.

Google announced a review of its advertising policies.

Havas, a French advertising group whose clients include O2 and Royal Mail, was the first major global company to announce that none of its budget would go to Google or YouTube until the matter was addressed.

Source: Daily Mail