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<nettime> Google's Next Mission: Fighting Violent Extremism
Geert Lovink on Fri, 15 Apr 2011 20:02:43 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Google's Next Mission: Fighting Violent Extremism

(interesting to see how google is pushed (or wanders itself?) into  
political directions. in the end, who will decide who is 'extreme' and  
what is an 'extreme opinion' or organization? what forms of resistance  
are 'violent'? these definitions shifts over time, as we all know, and  
tomorrow it is going to be you, me, us, them, whoever. the ageism here  
is also interesting, as if only young people are involved... (and to  
blame) /geert)

Google's Next Mission: Fighting Violent Extremism
By E.B. Boyd


Google's new think tank will host a summit on what makes some youths  
join radical groups and what makes others turn away.

Neo-Nazi groups and al Qaeda might not seem to have much in common,  
but they do in one key respect: their recruits tend to be very young.  
The head of Google?s new think tank, Jared Cohen, believes there might  
be some common reasons why young people are drawn to violent extremist  
groups, no matter their ideological or philosophical bent. So this  
summer, Cohen is spearheading a conference, in Dublin, Ireland, to  
explore what it is that draws young people to these groups and what  
can be done to redirect them.

Cohen is the former State Department staffer who is best known for his  
efforts to bring technology into the country?s diplomatic efforts. But  
he was originally hired by Condaleezza Rice back in 2006 for a  
different--though related--purpose: to help Foggy Bottom better  
understand Middle Eastern youths (many of whom were big technology  
adopters) and how they could best "deradicalized." Last fall, Cohen  
joined Google as head of its nascent Google Ideas, which the company  
is labeling a "think/do tank."

Technology, of course, is playing a role both in recruiting members to  
extremist groups, as well as fueling pro-democracy and other  
movements--and that?s where Google?s interest lies. "Technology is a  
part of every challenge in the world, and a part of every solution,?  
Cohen tells Fast Company. "To the extent that we can bring that  
technology expertise, and mesh it with the Council on Foreign  
Relations? academic expertise--and mesh all of that with the expertise  
of those who have had these experiences--that's a valuable network to  
explore these questions."

This summer?s conference, "Summit Against Violent Extremism," takes  
place June 26-29 and will bring together about 50 former members of  
extremist groups--including former neo-Nazis, Muslim fundamentalists,  
and U.S. gang members--along with another 200 representatives from  
civil society organizations, academia, private corporations, and  
victims groups. The hope is to identify some common factors that cause  
young people to join violent organizations, and to form a network of  
people working on the issue who can collaborate going forward.

"With more than 50 percent of the world?s population under the age of  
thirty and the vast majority of those characterized as 'at risk,'  
socially, economically, or both, an oversupply exists of young people  
susceptible to recruitment by the extremist religious or ideological  
group closest to them in identity or proximity," Cohen, wrote on the  
blog of the Council on Foreign Relations, the event?s co-host.

One of the technologies where extremism is playing out these days is  
in Google?s own backyard. Terrorist and other groups have made use of  
YouTube to broadcast their messages--as, indeed, have citizen  
empowerment movements. While YouTube has been criticized in the past  
for not removing violent videos as quickly as they appear, Cohen says  
the conference is looking at the root causes that prompt a young  
person to join one of the groups in the first place. "There are a lot  
of different dimensions to this challenge," he says. "It?s important  
not to conflate everything."

See also: Google Grabs State Dept. Star Jared Cohen for Foreign Policy  
"Think/Do Tank" 

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