Google Is Trying to Confuse Potential ISIS Recruits With Fake Search Results

Google Is Trying to Confuse Potential ISIS Recruits With Fake Search Results

Google's online ads follow you everywhere — check out a pair of shoes on Amazon and you'll see them for weeks in the banner ads on every site you use. Soon, Google will start putting that black magic to good use: fighting terrorism.

Google is piloting an ad campaign to deliver anti-terrorist propaganda to would-be jihadists who are using search terms to figure out how to join ISIS. The search engine is offering up a grant program that allows nonprofits running these messages to do so at no cost.

"This year ... we are running two pilot programs," Google executive Anthony House told a committee of the U.K. Parliament. "One is to make sure these types of views are more discoverable. The other is to make sure when people put potentially damaging search terms into our search engine, they also find these counter-narratives."

A representative from Twitter was present to insist that Twitter has also been fighting ISIS propaganda by wiping it off of its platform. As usual, the representative refused to get into specifics.

The header of a popular ISIS Tumblr account.
Source: Tumblr

Some outlets reported that Google would be "redirecting" searches and browsing, but as BuzzFeed points out, that's not accurate. Search results will remain unaltered, though now they'll come with a helpful serving of anti-ISIS messaging. 

Propaganda war: For ISIS's recruiting efforts in the West, spreading high-production propaganda through online channels like Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr is an essential strategy in seeking disaffected Americans who are at risk for radicalization.

The U.S. government has been pairing up with everyone from non-governmental organizations to the Hollywood elite to develop counter-propaganda media. Where ISIS shows someone finding camaraderie and belonging through radicalization, counter-propaganda sends a different message. From the Daily Beast:

For instance, [Hollywood filmmakers approached by the governement] discussed producing content that promotes stories of young people living in the region who have rejected Islamist terror and work to improve their communities—entrepreneurial work, starting small businesses, launching NGOs, doing volunteer work, and so forth.

Unfortunately, the click-through rate of a typical Google Adwords campaign is a measly 2%. Let's hope that budding terrorists don't develop banner-blindness.


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