In April, we announced a pilot project with the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) to serve compelling counter-narratives when people search for terrorism and extremism related content on Bing. As 2017 closes, we’re taking stock of that partnership, reporting on progress and outlining our next steps, as we continue to help dissuade vulnerable individuals from a path toward online radicalization to hate, violence and extremism.
Currently, when Bing users enter a query from a defined list, they see advertisements at the top of the search results page containing links to a relevant piece of counter-narrative content. The videos are pulled from a large amount of content available from nongovernmental organizations and expert counter-extremism groups like ISD, and highlight credible voices and stories that serve to deter individuals from extremist ideology. These include testimonials of former violent extremists who have experienced life inside known terrorist and extremist organizations. The content is designed to demystify, deconstruct or discredit extremist messaging; is chosen for relevance and quality, and is served in response to specific keywords and phrases that research shows are indicative of a nascent extremist ideology.
The pilot English-language program, which began in the U.K., aims to test the efficacy of search-engine advertising as a mechanism to deliver counter-narratives and deter at-risk internet users from radicalization. We have since expanded to the U.S. and Canada, and have plans for a global approach in multiple languages. Early results are encouraging, with a better-than-average rate of impressions and click-through, but we have more work to do to achieve our goal of real, human impact in helping to guide people to more positive pursuits. Accordingly, we’ve renewed our partnership with ISD through 2018.
“This initial pilot has provided valuable insight into the online search behavior of potentially radicalized individuals,” said Sasha Havlicek, CEO at ISD. “For the first time it has allowed us to test the efficacy of different types of content, as well as a range of strategies for disseminating counter-messaging to those exploring extremist content online. We are excited about the potential for these findings to inform and inspire NGOs to deliver more effective counter-narrative campaigns, reaching those most at risk.”
Training for NGOs
As part of the initial partnership, ISD launched this past autumn a series of training webinars to share its learnings with other non-governmental organizations. The trainings, five of which have been held thus far, explain the Bing ads grant program on countering online terrorism and extremism, and provide instruction on campaign design and measurement.
Partnering with industry
In addition to our work with ISD, Microsoft has its own policy, announced in May 2016, prohibiting terrorist content on our hosted consumer services. Since then, Microsoft has teamed with others in industry – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – to create an industry hash-sharing database of the most violent terrorism imagery, and to launch the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. Given our commitment to our industry colleagues and to these important efforts, Microsoft decided in June to expand our counter-terrorism policy. In addition to responding on a “notice-and-takedown basis” to reports of terrorism content on our hosted consumer services, Microsoft is now making full use of the video hashes supplied by the other companies and looks for duplicates of those videos on Microsoft’s hosted consumer services.