Google’s Chairman wants a algorithm to weed out hate speech from the Internet
Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, who wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times entitled ‘How to Build a Better Web’, calling on technology companies to build tools capable of disrupting hate speech and terrorist communications.
He wrote: “We should make it ever easier to see the news from another country’s point of view, and understand the global consciousness free from filter or bias.”
“It’s our responsibility to demonstrate that stability and free expression go hand in hand. We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media — sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment. We should target social accounts for terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and remove videos before they spread, or help those countering terrorist messages to find their voice.”
His words comes in the wake of calls by several prominent politicians to disrupt the effect of these communications. Barack Obama said on Sunday that he wants technology companies to “make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice”. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton similarly urged Silicon Valley to help jam a stick in the churning spokes of ISIS’s propaganda machine. “We need to put the great disrupters at work at disrupting ISIS,” she said at the Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday. She said it is crucial to “deprive jihadists of virtual territory” by shutting off their means of communication.
Shortly before demanding that the US close its border to all Muslims, Donald Trump made a call to close the Internet to Americans separately, “We are losing a lot of people to the internet,” Trump said. “We have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening.
“We have to talk to them [about], maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some way. Some people will say, ‘Freedom of speech, Freedom of speech’. These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”
The tech companies are finding it difficult to strike a balance between stopping terrorists from spreading their message and being perceived as government tools for controlling the Internet due to the rapid rise of ISIL and its sophisticated online recruitment and propaganda efforts.
Schmidt underlined that the tech industry should target social accounts for terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and remove videos before they spread, or help those countering terrorist messages to find their voice – something that Google, Facebook, and Twitter already taking efforts to do.
The argument about free speech versus hate speech is already a very controversial one, both in the United States where free speech is protected by the constitution, and elsewhere. Where people can hardly agree on the definition of hate speech, building algorithms to balance that fine line would be a huge task.