Facebook has called for youngsters and other tech and social media giants to fight extremism and hate. The firm's policy head Monika Bickert, spoke at SXSW on 11 March, at an event titled "Taking Back the Internet: Countering Extremism." Bickert reportedly said that social media platforms like Facebook, need to adopt a more proactive approach to combating hate speech and extremism that goes beyond merely removing extremist content.
"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," Bickert said at SXSW, the Guardian reported.
"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," the Facebook policy chief added.
Facebook has collaborated with the US Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism Task Force as well as an analytics firm EdVenture Partners to fund campaigns against extremism. The collaborative initiative called Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism, hopes to encourage the involvement of youngsters in countering hate, by inviting university students to create digital media campaigns. These campaigns will be designed to target those most vulnerable to be lured by extremist groups such as the Isis or neo-Nazi groups and help them to not be influenced by extremist propaganda.
A team from Rochester Institute of Technology won the Challenging Extremism programme, with their student project titled "It's Time: ExOut Extremism." The team created videos and infographics as well as other tools to empower people to counter extremist content.
"People who are radicalised were searching for camaraderie, community," said Olivia Hauck, ExOut CEO.
Bickert and DHS chief digital officer Matthew Rice agreed that it was important to identify who is best to deliver such counter-speech.
"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, Bickert said.
Defining what constitutes hate speech is also another challenge faced by the DHS and Facebook, especially under an administration that includes officials such as Steve Bannon, who have connections with the far right.
"The administration is still young and still figuring out its way," Rice said. "But we are still combating violent extremism regardless of ideology."