Friday, 04 November 2016 13:14

Blocking Internet is like blocking wind, radicalization conference hears


QUEBEC — Pulling hate material from the Internet will never be enough to curb the phenomenon of violent extremism, the head of free expression and international relations at Google told a conference on radicalization Tuesday.

“What we’ve seen over the past couple of years is a realization that simply taking the content down doesn’t work because one website goes down, two or three more are up the very next day,” Ross LaJeunesse said. “Simply taking down the content doesn’t address the feeling and the hatred which caused the speech in the first place. You need to engage the speakers who are promoting radicalization and hate online.”

He acknowledged that Google, the U.S.-based company that runs a search engine and the video-sharing service YouTube, has a role to play and argued the company is taking that responsibility very seriously. “We have started doing various programs, where, much like a regular advertising campaign, when someone searches for a key word that we think indicates they’re looking for radical content, we then show them an advertising campaign about content that counters that speech,” LaJeunesse said.

Also, “we don’t allow violent images on YouTube, we don’t allow pornography, we’ve always built YouTube to be a community where everyone is going to feel comfortable participating and speaking and watching content that they like.”

LaJeunesse added people must differentiate between YouTube, which Google controls, and the Internet, which the company doesn’t control. Many people equate Google with all of the Internet, he said.


When young people search the Internet, they’re asking questions and are usually not confirmed radicals, the conference heard on Tuesday. They’re at a stage where you can reach them, engage them, and present them with authentic, alternative voices.

Arguing that “blocking the Internet is a bit like trying to block wind,” panellists agreed that instead of focusing on censorship, societies should teach young people to navigate through the overload of information on the Internet and help them determine what is credible and what is bunk.

“Basically, you want the younger generation to question everything,” said Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, director of the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP).


Duraiappah insisted the most important skill to have in the 21st century is critical inquiry, “deconstructing an argument and then reconstructing it to see if you’re comfortable with it, being able to say ‘That’s not right.’ ”

He said he’d also like young people to “fire their Gandhi neurons,” in other words, express compassion and empathy, and develop the moral courage to change. All of that has to be in school curricula, Duraiappah argued, because it is what will help teenagers build their identities and belief systems. 

While not promising to change the curriculum in Quebec, Premier Philippe Couillard said it is important to maintain an “analysis culture.” 

“We’re doing it — are we doing it enough, that’s another question to be resolved,” he said.

Couillard announced $10,000 for a “No to hate” campaign that will travel across Quebec schools and youth clubs in the months to come. 

Source : montrealgazette

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