Tech giants Facebook, Google and Twitter testified to Congress this week about extremist content appearing on their platforms. In an odd admission, the companies promised to suppress extremist ideologies online by distributing their own counter propaganda, choosing to call it “counterspeech.”
Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management told Congress on Wednesday that the site plans to take matters into their own hands.
“We believe that a key part of combating extremism is preventing recruitment by disrupting the underlying ideologies that drive people to commit acts of violence. That’s why we support a variety of counterspeech efforts,” Bickert said.
Meanwhile, representatives from Google admitted during the testimony that they use an algorithm to send anti-terror messages to people who they suspect of viewing seditious material. The use of this algorithm is known as the “Redirect Method,” and was developed by a team at Google called the Jigsaw research group.
Juniper Downs, YouTube’s head of public policy, also said that the company has plans to implement censorship on videos that they deem to be extremist.
“Our advances in machine learning let us now take down nearly 70% of violent extremism content within 8 hours of upload and nearly half of it in 2 hours,” Downs bragged during the testimony.
Meanwhile, Twitter has set up over 100 “training events” all over the world including at elite locations like the White House or United Nations.
Twitter’s Carlos Monje Jr., director of public policy and philanthropy in the U.S. and Canada, said the company has participated in more than 100 training events since 2015 on countering extremist content.
While countering terrorism is certainly a noble cause, as TFTP has reported at length, these tactics are also used to snub out peaceful views that simply challenge the status quo.
In recent months, social media organizations have come under fire for the negative impact that they have had on human interactions and society at large. These groups have taken the blame for the recent divisions that have been tearing friends and family apart along political lines, and that blame is well placed for the most part.
Much of this problem has been created by the algorithms that curate and select the content that we see online, not the platforms themselves. These problems did not exist when social media had free-flowing timelines that were unrestricted and in chronological order. Unfortunately, these companies do not want to give up the control they have on the content that you consume, so they are doubling down on their algorithms and will undoubtedly make the problems that they seek to solve much worse.
As we also reported this week, YouTube alienated a large portion of its audience this week by demonetizing all of their smaller content creators. In an email sent out to millions of independent artists, musicians, and journalists, YouTube informed them that they were no longer eligible for advertising revenue on the site because their channels were simply not big enough. The site now requires a minimum of 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of viewed content, automatically disqualifying a large chunk of their creators from monetization.
These companies have become so far removed from their customers that they are no longer concerned with delivering a product that people actually want, which is the inevitable outcome of monopolies.
These organizations may have a stranglehold on the social media market for now, but it is only a matter of time before more free platforms are widely adopted. For example, a blockchain social media website called Steemit has been growing in popularity by the day. On that site, users get paid in cryptocurrency for posting, commenting and even “liking” other posts. You can find The Free Thought Project on Steemit @tftproject.
John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. John is currently battling cancer , and will be working to help others through his experience, if you wish to contribute to his treatments consider subscribing to his podcast to support .