Google is deploying a new weapon against potential ISIS recruits: Ads

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Having ditched the slogan "Don't be evil" when it became Alphabet, Google has decided to offer what it presumably views as the same advice to those searching for information about Islamic extremism. They're doing it with their AdWords service.


The news comes from the U.K., where The Telegraph describes Anthony House, Google's London-based Senior Manager, Public Policy and Communication, telling members of the House of Commons's home affairs select committee in some very convoluted language that Google is "working on counter-narratives around the world" with two pilot programs. One of those programs involves ensuring that "when people put potentially damaging search terms into our search engine they also find these counter narratives."

What exactly does this look like? A Google spokeswoman told the paper that the anti-terror messages would show up in "the sponsored links which are returned at the top of a Google search—and not the search results themselves." AdWords, in case the term is unfamiliar, are the tiny ads you might ignore that appear among your Google search results with a small yellow box reading "Ad" next to them.

That said! A recent search for "joining ISIS" yielded no ads. A search for "ISIS website" prompted ads for a Brookings Institution page about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a website for the group "Bridges to Common Ground" that discusses a plan to defeat ISIS. (Gizmodo wasn't able to find any anti-ISIS messages in their search attempts, either.)

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Like every other Google ad I've ever seen, I ignored them and clicked on the first link below: a site belonging to a hookah bar in New Jersey.

Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at