It has long been the case that ISIS identify and recruit new members through social media. They can locate users who identify with their extremist beliefs, prey on their loneliness and condemnation, and enable them to leave their country to join the terrorist organisation. YouTube have now put precautions in place to stop the spread of ISIS videos, using an automatic system closely modelled on the one used to remove copyright infringement from the platform.
The automation system works by identifying digital fingerprints that are unique to every video published online. This is called a “hash”. Hashes hold key information about the content’s location and content, which can be identified by YouTube’s unique search system. The harmful video can then be and removed from YouTube automatically.
We can’t go into much more detail, as YouTube cannot speak publicly about how their systems work in case ISIS intelligence crack the code of what’s removing their content. What we do know is that Facebook have made moves to operate the same system, and that once a particular video has been identified and banned, the same content cannot be uploaded by somebody else in a different location. The actual content is banned for good.
The system isn’t foolproof just yet. Both companies still need to maintain manual operations to ensure no terrorist content from ISIS state finds it’s way onto the channel for long, but the crackdown is a positive step to protect people all over the world from being exposed and even recruited by the videos.
The process is primarily in place to put a stop to disasters like the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, the Paris attacks in November 2015, and the Brussels attack in March 2016, all coordinated by ISIS members via messengers and social media. All of these tragedies have ended in multiple deaths of innocent civilians so we’re pleased to see YouTube attempting to crack down.
What do you think could be done to stop the spreading of extremism? Should YouTube be doing more?