Facebook messenger used to fight extremism

LOS ANGELES- Facebook Messenger has been used to try to deradicalise extremists in a pilot project funded entirely by the company. People posting extreme far-right and Islamist content in the UK were identified and contacted in an attempt to challenge their views.

76 of the 569 people contacted had a conversation of five or more messages, where eight showed signs it had a positive impact, researchers have claimed.

Privacy campaigners say it means Facebook is straying into surveillance. Technology companies have been asked to do more to stop extremist material littering their sites following a series of cases involving people who were radicalised online.

Counter extremist organisation Institute for Strategic Dialogue (SD), says it tried to mimic extremists’ own recruitment methods. It used its own software to scan several far-right and Islamist pages on Facebook for targets.

It then looked at their profiles manually looking for instances of violent, dehumanising and hateful language.

11 intervention providers were employed who were paid 25 pounds per hour for eight hours’ work a week.

Half the people they chose to try and chat with, had showed support for the Islamist extremism and half far-right sympathies. They split the group between men and women, with the aim of “walking them back from the edge, potentially, of violence”.

Despite the small numbers involved, the ISD argues the pilot showed online counter-extremism conversations can make a difference.

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