It’s time to open up a new front in the fight against Isis. Google’s head of ideas, whose job is to develop tools to battle oppression, said this week that stopping Isis being able to publicize itself on the internet requires forcing its supporters off the open web.
In a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, Google’s Jared Cohen argued that it is really not possible to stop terrorists like Isis from using Tor and accessing the dark web. He went on to argue that the best way to prevent terrorist organizations from propagating online is to hunt them down and kick them off the open web, that is, the millions of websites that can be indexed by search engines.
Google Exec on how to fight against Isis on the web
In his comments, Cohen noted: “What is new is that they’re operating without being pushed back in the same internet we all enjoy. So success looks like Isis being contained to the dark web.”
He went on to point out that Isis online propaganda has been highly effective. The jihadist organization has produced many professional quality videos, and used current social media trends including hashtags and bots to get its message out. In fact, according to Cohen, Isis has managed to make itself seem larger and more permanent than it actually is, limited to just Syria and surrounding areas.
Cohen explained: “What Isis is doing is reflective of the times, as opposed to some sort of new sophistication that magically appeared.”
Isis taking advantage of right to free speech
The high-tech efforts Isis is making to spread its message is putting tech firms, especially social media companies in a tough spot. These firms are ethically and legally required to provide an environment based on free speech, which can lead to difficult decisions when it conflicts with the social need to minimize terrorist propaganda.
Cohen went on to argue that Isis “has managed to create an exaggerated sense of their size online” by creating many fake accounts, trying to create a narrative that the jihadists are “winning.”
“But while the digital front is more complex, it could be where we can see greater short-term wins, so we should not neglect it,” he pointed out.
Cohen said the best way to stop online terrorist propaganda is to make Isis members openly promoting their cause online fear they will be caught and pay a price for their actions. He suggested, for starters, that all Isis social media accounts must be taken as soon as possible to stop people from contacting Isis recruiters.