Facebook Wants to Fight Islamic State with ‘Likes’

AP Photo
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

We’ve all heard the phrase “kill them with kindness,” but Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg honestly believes that users of the social media site can “like” terrorism out of existence.

Sandberg claims the best tool for fighting back against the growth of the Islamic State and other extremists is “counter-speech,” or as she’s dubbed them, “‘like’ attacks.”

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 … Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer.

Attempting to illustrate the power of counter-speech, Sandberg cited a recent protest where over 10,000 German Facebook users “liked” a neo-Nazi party’s Facebook page, then flooded the page with positive comments. “What was a page filled with hatred and intolerance was then tolerance and messages of hope,” she claimed.

Social media activism is a double-edged sword. Facebook has given millions a public outlet to show support for various issues. Millions of users expressed their slacktivist support for everything from gay marriage to the city of Paris following the terrorist attacks in November 2015. And although Facebook maintains that “there is no place for terrorists” on the site, and that they “work aggressively to ensure [they] do not have terrorists using the site,” the social network is quickly becoming no more than a platform for marketing and propaganda. Therein lies opportunity for the site to be used to perpetuate terrorism, whether Facebook is privately responsible for that content or not.

The world’s largest social network is already banking on their billion-plus daily users to discern what accounts for actual terrorism amongst a sea of hate speech, journalism, or general discussion on the actions of the terrorists. Pushing the idea of people “liking” terrorism to death just comes off as a whimpering smoke screen surrounding a much bigger problem.

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