Jul 5, 2019

Fighting Terrorism propaganda through Social media

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Social media has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade, creating some of the most powerful platforms to reach people on the planet. As a result, it has attracted people and groups with various intentions key among them being a terrorist organization. Social media remains mostly unregulated due to the matter of free speech and the novelty of the organization. For instance, Twitter claimed in 2015 that it would never censor any terrorist post. Additionally, Facebook delays adopting better security measures. Such encourages the upsurge of social media accounts sharing radical messages. The result is increased fear, suspicion and event recruitment.

Consequently, there have been increased calls from multiple stakeholders to fight terrorism propaganda through social media. For example, the G-20 recently ratified an initiative to pressure tech companies to set up efforts against terrorist content. However, despite the growing need for the same. The practicality of implementing impactful countermeasures is difficult in the complicated technological landscape. Current measures adopted by the leading tech companies such as Facebook and Google include the integrated use of both artificial intelligence and human resources to take down terrorism accounts on social media. The companies use AI to flag down the posts and block related reports. They have also developed a shared database of various suspected posts with radical information.

Nonetheless, such measures are proving relatively hard because they are not scalable. They cannot block posts based only on the presence of specific keywords. Thus they need humans to interpret the context of the words used, which is impossible to scale considering that people upload millions of posts every minute. Accordingly, the industry-led initiative is not sustainable for the problem at hand.

Alternative routes include instituting stringent laws on those posting any propaganda content on social media. To this end, various governments around the world have set a precedent for criminalizing the sharing of violent extremist messages. An example is Australia and Kenya that have condemned such activities and imposed criminal sentences on those found guilty of the same. However, critics have been quick to point out that banning social media posts is limiting the freedom of expression.

Another approach, which might have a strong reach, is public sensitization and encouraging reporting. The government and tech companies cannot manage to control the spread of propaganda alone. Accordingly, they should invest in engaging the public in the discourse. They have the most extensive access to the internet post. Thus by educating them on what to look out for, we can curb the spread of terrorist propaganda on the internet. For example, in Kenya, the government could invest in public sensitization to make more people aware of the dangers of promoting harmful terrorist content.

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