Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Internet: The Magic Lamp of Extremists | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A woman holds her smart phone, which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Illustration/File Photo

Only few days before the terrorist attack in London, an interesting report in The Times revealed that a number of extremists have uploaded videos of themselves on YouTube where various advertisements were shown alongside for: the Ministry of Interior, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, Transport for London and other British governmental authorities and ministries.

This indicates that tax payers in Britain are unintentionally funding extremists via ads that appear on YouTube. Hours after the attack, the Daily Mail found on Google and Twitter guiding pieces of evidence – one of them included a section that explains how to use vehicles as arms. This guide was published one year ago, in other words, this content has been available online for extremists for a year now i.e. before the occurrence of similar attacks by vehicles in Nice and Berlin, killing and injuring dozens. These booklets provide detailed instructions on how to cause chaos.

Knowing this is an enough proof of the infiltration of extremists to the social media easily, despite the strict regulations against terrorism in the world. Even worse, some governments are confronting terrorism on one hand and allowing it to reach out to citizens on the other hand. This is a catastrophe. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become the paradise of terrorists.

Internet that has represented a grace to the world is now, unfortunately, a magic lamp allowing extremists to emit their venom, trap their victims and play a vital role in the make of extremism, terrorism and in violence incitation.

In his book “Introducing Social Media Intelligence”, Sir David Omand says that the violent events that took place in Britain following the death of a citizen by a policeman in August 2011 wouldn’t have happened on such a wide-scale and influence if social media activists hadn’t incited violence against the police.

While some governments demand that Google, Facebook and Twitter agitate and cease the online prompting of terrorism and hatred, these companies affirm their clear policy in preventing publishing any material that contradicts with the terms of service with the support of a judicial order in this regards. However these companies do not hide their concern that cooperating with western countries that witnessed terrorist threats will lead to limitless demands from all over the world.

Surely, they don’t want to risk their stake from enormous profits that are influenced by additional steps and procedures that might reduce users’ turnover. For instance, every ad on a YouTube video grants his owner USD6 or USD7 for every 1,000 views. Also, Facebook, Google and Twitter prefer not to be held responsible for monitoring terrorism inducing so that they won’t be obliged to assign additional staff to cease extremist content.

According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR), ISIS published in February 2015 around 892 ads and 570 ads in February 2017. This means that ISIS has not been stopped yet. Concerns are no more restricted to publishing this content but its availability online for a long time.

Google removed links that direct users to the booklets after The Times report, true. But the content achieved its purpose, was accurately implemented and uploaded on personal devices.

It is no longer a probability, internet has already become uncontrollable amidst a slight nuance between maintaining freedom of speech and horrible exploitation to serve murder and destruction.

Right now, social media is facing a huge challenge: either finding an effective method to put an end to extremists’ exploitation of social media or submitting to corrupt practices and, therefore, transforming the social media into a destructive tool that threatens communities and their national peace.