With the increasing reliance of terrorist and extremist groups upon mass media and the internet as a tool for spreading their propaganda, corporations are mobilizing and discovering brand new, innovative ways to fight back. Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has joined the ranks of companies bringing out guns of their own.
The company has brought out a brand new tool called counter speech that will help counter speakers combat extremist opinions on the net.
Combating views that propagate wrong and hateful things on the internet is pretty hard. After all, what are you to do? Well, people have found a novel, gandhian way to fight against the like by bombarding such negative propaganda with likes and nice comment.
In 2014, for example, almost 100,000 people virtually swamped a neo-nazi Facebook page with likes and comments. The idea garnered much support amongst the community and even some of Facebooks top officials, including COO Sheryl Sandberg, endorsed it.
Speaking on the topic, Susan Benesch, a faculty associate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and director of the Dangerous Speech Project, said,
Google and Facebook have latched onto this notion as a means of responding to objectionable or harmful content and now they are beginning to do things to try to encourage it,
Work on Counter Speech started in earnest in December when Ms. Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, started focusing her attention on ways of countering terrorist propaganda. One of the major questions that arose from the discussion included making sure that other people are also able to see it.
One of the ways discovered by Facebook was offering cash incentives in form of ad credits to counter speakers — as they are being popularly called. For example, last year, Mr. el Ayachi, a German Comedian filmed a video to counter claims from a Greek right-wing group that eating halal meat is poisonous to Christians. Facebook rewarded him with ad credits worth $1000.
Similarly, last year various colleges were encouraged to take part in a competition to promote counter speech around the world in two different competitions, and were awarded $2,000 and $200 ad credits, respectively.
However, its not certain if these efforts are actually having an effect. Statistics by a U.K. think tank Demos show that there were 25,522 posts on populist right-wing pages and barely a tenth of that on counter speech pages. That said, the efforts by Facebook and others is bound to have a positive impact and encourage people who are willing to give their voices to the fight against terror over the virtual frontiers.