Google Inc.’s U.K. users who search for extremism-related entries will be redirected to anti-radicalization links in a bid to counter online influence of religious fanaticism, a company executive told British lawmakers. The initiative comes at a time when world powers are tackling the threat posed by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, which has a strong online presence.
Anthony House, senior manager for public policy and communications at Google, briefed lawmakers about the plan at a home affairs select committee hearing on combating extremism, the Guardian reported Tuesday. House, along with executives from Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., was asked by lawmakers about the companies’ role in clamping down on social media use by religious extremist groups such as ISIS.
“We should get the bad stuff down, but it’s also extremely important that people are able to find good information, that when people are feeling isolated, that when they go online, they find a community of hope, not a community of harm,” House said, according to the Guardian.
A Google spokeswoman said the program would show up anti-radicalization messages in “AdWords” — the sponsored links at the top of a Google search — and not the search results themselves, the Telegraph reported.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s policy director for the U.K. and Ireland, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, said that as per a research, people did not just get influenced by terrorist groups online. They are radicalized after real-world and online contact, Milner reportedly said. Facebook was working with community members like Imams to fight the spread of radicalization, he added.
Nick Pickles, U.K. Public Policy Manager at Twitter, said at the hearing that his company took down thousands of violent extremist accounts in the last 12 months. Twitter, which has 320 million users, employs “more than 100” people working to deal with inappropriate use of the site, he said, according to the Telegraph.
MP Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, asked House and Milner of Facebook about the number of people employed in “hit squads” to remove terrorist and extremist material. However, both companies declined to reveal figures publicly.
At least 700 British citizens have traveled to the Iraq and Syria to join jihadist organizations, the BBC reports.