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Facebook Policy Chief: Social Media Must Step Up Fight Against Extremism

Social networks such as Facebook need a more proactive approach to countering extremism and hate speech than simply deleting extremist posts, the tech giant’s head of policy said at the South By South West (SXSW) Festival on Saturday night.

“Even if we were perfect at keeping violent extremism from ever hitting our community and other technology companies were perfect, we know that alone isn’t enough to change minds or stop the spread of violent extremism,”

“The best remedy is good speech that gets people thinking and challenging ideologies. We focus on trying to amplify some of the voices to counter violent narratives,”

Monika Bickert, who appeared on a SXSW panel titled Taking Back the Internet: Countering Extremism.

Facebook has partnered with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Task Force and EdVenture Partners, an analytics firm, to fund and scale campaigns against hate and extremism. The partnership, called Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism, invites university students to design prototypes and digital media campaigns designed to change the minds of people lured towards extremist groups such as Isis and neo-Nazis. The partners used the SXSW panel to outline some of the things they have learned since the program launched in 2015.

Who delivers the counter-speech is critical. “You have to be a credible speaker,” Bickert said. Someone from government or a senior executive from a tech company is “not likely to resonate in the same way as a young person’s voice speaking to a young person’s community” would, she said.

Challenging Extremism

The student project that won the Challenging Extremism program was called “It’s Time: ExOut Extremism”. It creates videos, infographics and other educational tools and resources to empower people, who might otherwise stay silent, to stand against extremist content.

“People who are radicalised were searching for camaraderie, community,” said Olivia Hauck, ExOut CEO. ExOut provides that for people on the other side of the fence.

Keeping messages positive rather than negative makes a bigger impact. “If you say you’re wrong, your ideas are stupid, it doesn’t shift opinions. If you use humour, it’s more likely to be shared and ignites the community.” Bickert said.

Hauck added: “If you make someone uncomfortable to have a seat at the table, you never get to have those conversations.”

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Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of factual and easy-to-understand information on online safety. Their website offers advice on how you can protect yourself, your computers and devices, and your business against the likes of fraud, identity theft, viruses and other potential online problems.

NSPCC has pages for adults worried about children being radicalised and the impact of terrorism on them. The link also contains details of a helpline people can call to seek support for adults who have concerns about children and young people being radicalised or who need advice on how to talk to their children about issues related to terrorism.

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