Google is launching anti-radicalization campaigns through its search engine aimed at countering the online influence of extremist groups such as ISIS.
The company noted how these groups use the Internet in their propaganda and how they also use social media to recruit new members.
The anti-extremism initiative will utilize the AdWords program of Google. As a pilot program, select non-profits will help in producing narrative advertising that counters extremism whenever a user enters keywords in the search box that have ISIS or Islamic radicalization themes. While these ads will be displayed prominently, users will not in any way have their searches be redirected.
"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," said Anthony House, senior manager for public policy and communications at Google.
House added that there are actually two pilot programs that are being launched. The first is aimed at ensuring that media content with extremist themes will be easier to detect on YouTube. The second makes sure that users find counter narratives whenever they enter search terms that are potentially damaging.
The two pilot programs are scheduled to run this year.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz expressed his concern on how tech companies will be able to monitor the online activities of their users. It was revealed that Twitter, which now has 320 million users around the globe, has more than 100 staff. Google and Facebook did not provide a number.
Apart from monitoring the users, executives from the three companies are also asked to provide details on the thresholds they are using in order to come up with a decision on whether it is apt to notify authorities when a staff or a user has identified terrorist-based content.
"What is the threshold beyond which you decide ... that you must proactively notify the law enforcement agencies," said Labor MP Chuka Umunna.
The company did not, however, reveal which search terms would have terrorist connotations and it doesn't seem like they ever will, for obvious reasons. A potential terrorist may never be able to figure it out himself since Google will not entirely redirect his search. Instead, it will use AdWords to come up with a counter narrative.
Tech companies have also been working extensively with the Obama administration in its fight against the threat of ISIS. Last month, major companies from the Silicon Valley sat down with the U.S. president and discussed several ways they could use their platforms in cutting the growing media presence of ISIS on the Internet.