The propaganda machine that's fueling the Islamic State terrorist group must be relegated to the dark net if international authorities ever want to stop them, according to a Google executive. It's a proposal that comes amid international uncertainty over how to prevent ISIS from using popular social media channels for recruitment and message distribution.
Jared Cohen, Google's Head of Ideas, said Tuesday he would like to make it more difficult for Internet users to communicate with ISIS. Part of that would include forcing ISIS to use encryption services like Tor on the dark net, a vast Internet wilderness that's inaccessible with a traditional browser or search engine. He added that ISIS members have created far more social media accounts than there are actual members, helping the group exaggerate its size and portray itself as a digital bogeyman.
“What ISIS is doing is reflective of the times, as opposed to some sort of new sophistication that magically appeared,” Cohen said during a talk at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House, a British think tank, as quoted by the Guardian. “What is new is that they're operating without being pushed back in the same Internet we all enjoy. So success looks like ISIS being contained to the dark web.”
Cohen added ISIS is "not a tech savvy organization."
Cohen's comments come on the heels of a George Washington University study which determined that ISIS sympathizers in America prefer Twitter over any other social media network.
There are an estimated 400 pro-ISIS social media users in the U.S. who use anything from black flags, lions, green birds or NFL logos as their online avatar. The cat-and-mouse game between Twitter and suspected terrorist sympathizers is now at the point where ISIS supporters consider it a “badge of honor” to be suspended by Twitter, researchers found.
Aside from blocking accounts, another way to curb ISIS' influence might be to use a technique similar to targeted advertising. Yasmin Green, another Google Ideas employee, suggested organizations might “connect, distract, disrupt and maybe sell a different product” to users who are especially vulnerable to ISIS messaging.