Social media is a powerful tool – for both good and bad. Whether you’re promoting a fundraiser for a charity or something more nefarious, it’s an easy way to reach billions of people. And terrorist organizations realize that.
ISIS, in particular, has become notoriously adept at using social media sites for spreading its hateful rhetoric and finding new recruits. “Foreign terrorists now have direct access into the United States like never before,” the FBI’s assistant director said last summer, after a failed terrorist attack that had been planned using social media.
Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have tried to keep on top of the threat, closing down any flagged accounts and removing videos. But things move so fast, they can’t possibly be expected to keep up. Wired summed up the problem in an article last year: “The problem lies in the global nature of social media, the reliance upon self-policing by users to identify objectionable content, and the fact that many of those banned simply open a new account and continue posting their hatred.”
But Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg thinks she might have the answer: rather than only focusing on silencing the voices of hate and intolerance, drown them out with messages of hope.
By using social media platforms to amplify the voices of those who know the true nature of groups like ISIS, we can flip the narrative on its head. It’s a strategy that has been tried and tested in Germany. Civil society groups there have launched what Sandberg is calling “like attacks”, targeting a neo-Nazi Facebook page and flooding it with messages of love and tolerance.
“Counter-speech to the speech that’s perpetrating hate is by far the best answer,” Sandberg told a panel that included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
Watch the session in full here.
The Annual Meeting is taking place in Davos from 20-23 January, under the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.