Facebook wants to counter extremism on its platform by offering ad credits to users who speak out against extremist propaganda.
Facebook's latest anti-extremist initiative, called "counter speech," means that the company encourages its users to post the exact opposite of hate-speech. To further motivate Facebook users to enroll in this overflow of kindness, the company offers up to $1,000 in ad credits to those who join the effort.
The action is the company's way of siding with national and international government agencies, which fight a constant battle against online extremism.
"We need narratives that promote tolerance, peace and understanding," said Monika Bickert, Facebook's Head of Global Policy Management, as cited by The Wall Street Journal.
Arbi el Ayachi, a comedian from Germany, is one of the first people Facebook awarded. Ayachi became famous after a short video he posted on the social network went viral. His video underlined the stereotypical image that Westerners have of Islam and Muslims.
As an answer to increasing concerns from a multitude of national and international organizations, social networks started to take steps into countering extremists' actions. As a result, Twitter pulled the plug on more than 125,000 ISIS accounts, which were suspected of being connected to the organization.
Another Twitter initiative is the Trust and Safety Council, which watchdogs social media activities and eliminates abusive content.
Facebook talked about its "counter speech" plan as early as December 2015. In fact, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently explained that the initiative showed promising results.
She told the media that Facebook users in Germany used "likes" to flood the page of the National Democratic Party, which is famous for its extremist right-wing advocacy. By spreading "likes" and good-natured comments on the page, the users effectively changed the overall page's tone.
This is the type of positive hijacking that the "counter speech" campaign wants to see more often. Sandberg addressed the Isis related pages, as well.
"The best thing to speak against recruitment by Isis are the voices of people who were recruited by ISIS, understand what the true experience is, have escaped and have come back to tell the truth," Sandberg said.
Facebook is working hard to craft and maintain a balance between free speech and filtering extremist content on its website. Various technology leaders in the United States hesitated to police user-generated content, because of the emphasis that Americans put on free speech.
The company extends its efforts to curb online extremism beyond its digital borders. That is why it teamed up with the U.S. State Department and EdVenture Partners in order to encourage college students to write anti-propaganda messages.
Until now, two competitions took place, with as many as 45 college classes worldwide joining in. The participating schools received $200 ad credits and $2,000 budgets as a reward for their contribution to the anti-extremist discourse.
Facebook did not disclose exactly how its counter-speech initiative will be implemented. However, the fact that big companies in the tech field, such as Twitter and Google, are embarking on the same journey could mean that the days of extremist discourse on the Internet are numbered.