Living in the secular West it is easy to believe that religion is a completely outdated idea, a quaint tradition that still persists in some corners of the world, and one that will steadily wither as modern society progresses.
However, the news that Google is stepping up its battle against online extremism, through “the power of targeted online advertising” and machine learning, offers the potential to launch a new kind of religious warfare, a war of ideas, that may consume much of the next century.
Pitting AI against Extremism
Google is without any doubt at the top of the tree when it comes to combining online advertising techniques and artificial intelligence so the fact that it might use these skills to curb radicalisation of vulnerable people might be seen as only good news.
The global search giant announced four key initiatives for its YouTube platform that include: the use of technology to help identify extremist and terrorism-related videos, an increase in the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger programme, a tougher stance on videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content and an expansion of its counter-radicalisation efforts.
“This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining,”
Kent Walker, general counsel at Google.
On the face of it, these seem entirely reasonable aims and while the story was mainly covered by the tech press, coverage has nonetheless been widely supportive. After all there are very few people, outside perhaps of ISIS training camps, that would argue that unprovoked killing of innocent people is a good thing.
The idea that we might use technology to identify and prevent the spread of violent ideology online therefore would seem only to be a good thing until we consider the potential battleground it sets out for our future.…continue reading on Medium