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Sheryl Sandberg: Likes can save lives

We’ve written previously about how Facebook and other platforms have been co-opted by a number of groups to spread hate speech and extremist propaganda. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated her belief that the key to combating hatred online is with positive, proactive counter-speech.


According to Sandberg, the best way to take back the internet from such organisations is by flooding these spaces with positivity, something she calls “a Like Attack.” One recent example is a neo-Nazi Facebook page in Germany, which was inundated by likes and comments from German users preaching tolerance and equality.

Identifying propaganda and radicalising content with a greater degree of accuracy is an important part of reclaiming Facebook, but doing so with accuracy is still not an exact science. There is already an early warning system in place for suicide prevention, where Facebook users are able to “flag” status updates which contains trigger words and indicates that a person was contemplating hurting themselves. During a recent meeting with President Obama, Sandberg reportedly considered the possibility that a similar system might have a role to play in spotting radicalisation online.

Another way of battling online extremism, Sandberg says, is by offering a platform to people who can show us the reality of what happens behind the curtain. “The best thing to speak against recruitment by ISIS are the voices of people who were recruited by ISIS, understand what the true experience is, have escaped, and have come back to tell the truth,” she says. “Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer.”

Other tech companies are also open to helping the government battle ISIS, in theory at least. However, there are still some concerns over playing “thought police” on social media, and Apple for one remains steadfast in its privacy and encryption policies.

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