Google-owned video streaming platform YouTube has announced a new initiative to prevent people from viewing extremist material on its platform.
The experimental effort sees users searching for “violent extremist propaganda” redirected to videos that counter the narrative of terrorist sympathisers who post material designed to radicalise viewers and inspire them to launch attacks.
Instead of being served a list of Islamist-related content when they enter certain keywords into YouTube’s search engine, would-be jihadis will instead be presented with videos debunking the carefully-orchestrated mythology around groups such as Daesh.
The videos, which challenge claims made by Daesh and its sympathisers, include testimony from former extremists who have left the group, speeches from imams condemning violent extremism, and footage from inside the jihadi organisation’s crumbling caliphate showing the reality of life there.
“The Redirect Method uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalisation,” a statement on the project’s website reads.
“It focuses on the slice of [Daesh’s] audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking [Daesh] recruiting themes.
“This open methodology was developed from interviews with [Daesh] defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.”
Over an eight-week trial of the method, more than 320,000 viewers were redirected to watch over 500,000 minutes of footage, according to a report from Mail Online.
In a statement, YouTube said it hopes to build on the project over the coming weeks by including search terms in languages other than English, and by using machine learning to add new search queries to its redirect list.
The firm also said it plans to work with counter-terror organisations to produce new content “designed to counter violent extremist messaging at different parts of the radicalisation funnel”.
Tech firms have come under increasing pressure to crackdown on violent extremist propaganda material on their networks in recent months.
In March, a number of major companies pulled their advertising from YouTube after an investigation conducted by the Times of London revealed their spots were being shown before extremist videos.
Other online firms such as WhatsApp and Telegram, which are both popular with Islamist extremists, have attracted criticism for failing to provide security services in a number of countries with access to encrypted messages sent by suspected terrorists.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd vowed to “call time” on internet firms that offer suspected terrorists a “place to hide” in the wake of the Islamist attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in March, but has so far failed to take any concreate action against the companies.