Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg believes that fighting off terrorism and ISIS proselytism on the world’s largest social networking platform is as simple as hitting the like button and keeping a positive attitude.
Sandberg made the statement Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she said that starting a “like attack” on terrorism would be a good idea. She even has solid proof that the approach is viable.
She said that an initiative to flood the Facebook account of a German neo-nazi group with lots of likes and messages of hope annihilated the negative message posted on that page.
“What was a page filled with hatred and intolerance was then tolerance and messages of hope,”
She believes that a similar attitude could prevent ISIS recruiters from luring in new members. Many former ISIS recruiters decided to open up and tell the world what a dreadful experience they escaped from. Sandberg said that counter-speech to hate message could be the best solution to the problem.
On Wednesday, Google embraced a similar idea when Jared Cohen, head of Google Ideas, said that the Internet should declare ISIS agents war and keep them away from any sites that could give them a voice. Cohen thinks that that way we could win the most short-term battles against international terrorism.
Other government officials and U.S. politicians also spoke against the relative freedom ISIS agents currently have on the Internet. For instance, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said that Microsoft could make arrangements to partially close the internet up to prevent ISIS proliferation.
Yet, such proposals are hard to translate in reality because the Internet belongs basically to no one and everyone. So, closing it up would irk free speech advocates the most, and closing it up for good to some groups would be an impossibility.
Plus, Sandberg’s proposition fringes absurdity by some critics’ standards for multiple reasons. First, you can’t tell which Facebook page belongs to extremist groups as ISIS recruiters act covertly because otherwise they would be shut down for openly promoting racism and hateful propaganda. So don’t expect a Facebook page to simply say “DEATH to America!!” “Purge America with JIHAD!!”
Second, the power of likes is not that dreadful. Liking a positive comment on an ISIS page would be like mumbling ‘guns ought to be banned’ at a second amendment supporters’ convention. More needs to be done to fight off ISIS than just posting inspirational quotes on their sites, critics have said.
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