January 20, 2016 12:55 pm

To win the online war against ISIS, we must contain them to the dark web: Google exec

Could banishing terrorist groups to the dark web help stop propaganda?

Michael Smith/Newsmakers
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For months government officials and tech companies have been discussing how to shut down the Islamic State’s online recruiting and propaganda machine.

But the director of Google Ideas now says the online war against ISIS can only be won if tech companies figure out a way to banish their posts from public view, by only allowing the terrorist group to operate on the dark web.

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“ISIS is the first terrorist organization that has managed to occupy and hold both physical territory and digital territory,” said Jared Cohen during a talk with the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

“Terrorist groups like ISIS operate in the dark web whether we want them to or not. What is new is that they’re operating without being pushed back – in the same internet we all enjoyed. So success looks like ISIS being contained to the dark web.”

While Cohen noted that ISIS isn’t necessarily a “tech savvy” organization, he said their abilities shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Islamic State has relied heavily on Twitter, Facebook and other websites to recruit followers, post propaganda videos and even hijack hashtags and existing trends on social media websites to spread their message.

Twitter and Facebook have both been under increased pressure to crack down on terrorist activity on their platforms, forcing both social networks to issue updates to their Terms of Service.

READ MORE: Can social media sites do more to stop terrorist activity?

In early December, Facebook was forced to defend its policy on terrorism in response to a Change.org petition accusing the social network of not doing enough to shut down terrorism-related accounts. Later that month, ,Twitter updated its rules to contain more specific language emphasizing that users are not to harass, intimidate, or use fear to “silence another user’s voice.”

Cohen said ideally social media companies need to come up with a way to shut down terrorism-related accounts as fast as they are created to prevent recruiters from getting in touch with people.

But beyond shutting down accounts, how could tech companies force ISIS to exist only on the dark web?

Cohen didn’t provide any answers during his talk; however, according to a report by The Guardian, Google executives have proposed that targeted advertising could be used.

According to the report, the idea would be to flag users who are reading propaganda and show them targeted ads that offer a different view on what ISIS is trying to sell them in order to disrupt their recruiting efforts.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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