Facebook is seeking to nip the problem of terrorist grooming on its network in the bud by pairing up individuals deemed to be at risk of becoming jihadis with reformed terrorists.
The pilot initiative is being run by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which was given access by Facebook to seek out British Muslims discussing moving to Syria to join Islamic State in order to intervene before they committed any crimes.
A software tool narrowed down a list of targets to single out those most active in known extremist circles who were posting the greatest volume of supportive sentiments towards jihadists before handing their details to ex-terrorists to engage directly with the individuals. The former terroists then offer counsel and share their own experiences and ideological perspectives in a bid to break IS propaganda.
Zahed Amanullah, senior programme manager at the ISD, said “If Anjem Choudary [the hate preacher] is allowed to say what he says in the mainstream media, imagine what people can do online. Isis uses the best technology. They understand the psychology of propaganda. We’re not doing the same.
“People who went to join Isis in the early days might have been naive. Now everyone knows what they’re up to and people are still going. It just shows you the depths of the problem. People are still convinced by the propaganda.”
Buoyed by the success of this initial work, the ISD is pushing for the scheme to be expanded to other social networks such as Google+ and Twitter.