Google ramps up tech capabilities to fight online terror

Daisy Doctor
By Daisy Doctor | 19 June 2017

Google has announced four additional steps it will take in the fight against online terror, specifically on YouTube, as it looks to reassure users and advertisers it is taking a tough stance on brand safety and content control.

In a blogpost by Google senior vice-president and general counsel Kent Walker, Google pledged better tech, more human resources, warnings and partnerships going forward.

The post comes after a raft of brands began pulling advertising from YouTube amid brand safety concerns. For example, University advertisements were placed alongside Isis sympathiser videos.

The post outlines the previous work Google has already done to monitor videos and regulate content on its site, however says: “The uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now.”

While the platform is already using image-matching technology and has invested in systems that use content-based signals, Google is now pledging four additional steps.

The first step is an assurance that more technology will be used to monitor extremist and terrorism-related videos, which are often hard to identify.

“A video of a terrorist attack may be informative news reporting if broadcast by the BBC, or glorification of violence if uploaded in a different context by a different user,” the blog says.

“We will now devote more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new 'content classifiers' to help us more quickly identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content,” it adds.

The second pledge by Google is an increase in the number of independent human experts in YouTube's Trusted Flagger platform which enables users to report content they believe violates the community guidelines.

When a video is flagged, the content is then reviewed by a person at YouTube and then removed, according to YouTube's blog.

While machines can help identify bad content, “human experts still play a role in nuanced decisions about the line between violent propaganda and religious or newsworthy speech,” according to Google.

It will expand the program by adding 50 expert NGOs to the 63 organisations who are already part of it, and offer them support with operational grants.

For the third pledge, Google is promising a tougher stance on videos which do not directly violate its policies, but contain “inflammatory religious or supremacist content”.

“In future these will appear behind an interstitial warning and they will not be monetised, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements. That means these videos will have less engagement and be harder to find.”

Lastly, YouTube will be expanding its role in counter-radicalisation efforts, by building on its Creators for Change platform which aims to redirect potential Isis recruits to alternative content. It will work with Jigsaw, previously known as Google Ideas, to implement the 'redirect method' more broadly across Europe.

“This promising approach harnesses the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential Isis recruits, and redirects them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining,” the blog post states.

Criticism of Google's stance on brand safety have been swirling for sometime, with News Corp's Nicole Sheffield recently stating “the reality is you put one image out to advertisers and media clients about what you are and this is only one part of the overall audience you are attracting,” while speaking to Australia's Google MD Jason Pellegrino at the AdNews Media + Marketing Summit Sydney.

You can get your early bird tickets to the Melbourne Media + Marketing Summit hereAlso, catch Google speaking at the AdNews Live! Tackling Transparency event. 

During the session, Pellegrino said that while there have been calls for all YouTube content to be pre-verified, it would not take that approach and defended the 'diversity of voice' Google's platform offers.

“YouTube from an advertising perspective was honestly thought of as cats on skateboards. What we are trying to say is there is massive diversity out there whether it’s [popular video blogger] Casey Neistat or elements that I personally disagree with,” he said.

See the full Google blogpost here

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