Terrorism is a battle fought on many fronts; the Internet included. That's why Google has decided to start its own private crusade. Through its project, The Redirect Method, they attempt to reach aspiring jihadists and to dissuade them from joining the group.
What is the Redirect Method?
The Redirect Method was developed by Jigsaw, as well as being the protagonist in the Saw films, it's also a subsidiary of the conglomerate, Alphabet. The idea behind the project is to detect potential DAISH followers through certain keywords they type into the search engine. In order to do this, they have developed a program that combines Google's search algorithms and YouTube's video platform.
How does the Redirect Method work?
If someone interested in the Jihad's call searches using keywords associated with the terrorist group, Google will include publicity and links in their search results that redirects them to specific YouTube channels. These channels, in English and Arabic, have testimonies from former Jihadists or Imams describing the religious corruption within ISIS. With this method they are seeking to fight against the powerful online recruitment networks of terrorist groups.
Is it an effective antidote?
Although many technology companies have taken rigid measures against the spread of terrorist propaganda, such as banning or erasing accounts, they have been largely unsuccessful. Each time Twitter erases an account, a number of others pop up in its place. The Redirect Method was developed as a new way to fight online terrorism. It could almost be seen as a marketing campaign. In her interview with Wired, Yasmin Green, the projects director of research and development, says "The Redirect Method is at its heart a targeted advertising campaign: Let’s take these individuals who are vulnerable to ISIS’ recruitment messaging and instead show them information that refutes it.” The Redirect Method doesn't look to prohibit but to convince.
Since the beginning of the year, this project has been running in its pilot phase in the U.S. and it seems to be quite effective. Within 2 months, 300,000 people were drawn to the Anti-ISIS YouTube channels. According to Green, this project isn't designed to monitor or detain anyone but to educate. “These are people making decisions based on partial, bad information,” and Google's mission is "to make the world’s information accessible and useful."
The Redirect Method is the beginning of a new way to fight online terrorism. We can't yet take stock of its success but we're hopeful that using a method of persuasion will be more effective than one of violence. Like my mother used to say: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.