The Redirect Method uses Adwords targeting tools and curated YouTube videos uploaded by people all around the world to confront online radicalization. It focuses on the slice of ISIS’ audience that is most susceptible to its messaging, and redirects them towards curated YouTube videos debunking ISIS recruiting themes. This open methodology was developed from interviews with ISIS defectors, respects users’ privacy and can be deployed to tackle other types of violent recruiting discourses online.

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The Challenge

The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is the first terrorist group to have “secured territory” in both the physical and digital sphere. It has set up central media outlets—including Al-Furqan, Al-I'tisam, Al-Hayat, and Ajnad—to craft its messaging. They have been able to produce a steady stream of leadership statements, documentaries, and videos of hostages and battlefields. ISIS also benefits from crowd-sourced efforts: loyalists serving as ISIS poster-children in the news (e.g., “Jihadi John”, Sally Jones), remote sympathisers posting supportive messages on social media (such as Shami Witness), and dedicated disseminators sharing links between content-hosting websites. All of this forms a complex, reinforcing network of content and actors whose goal is to leverage the power of the Internet to recruit new adherents.

Curating & Targeting to confront extremism

ISIS wouldn’t be deploying such efforts online if they didn’t think people were actively looking for content. And sadly there are too many doing so. We’ve built the Redirect Method to add to the arsenal of tools available to address this reality, to ensure that those browsing the Internet with precise questions around violent extremism and the Caliphate get answers from the many voices debunking ISIS recruitment narratives.

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What makes The Redirect Method different?

The Redirect Method is a 4-step approach that employs readily available online resources — existing online videos and targeted advertising tools — to counter ISIS recruitment efforts online.

Three key decisions have shaped this project and differentiate it from most other initiatives underway:

Our target audience:
Those most susceptible to ISIS’ messaging online.

We focused solely on reaching the slice of ISIS’ audience that was most susceptible to its message and actively seeking to engage with ISIS-produced content. We based the Redirect Method on insights from speaking directly to those who had been recruited and convinced by ISIS rhetoric — both young girls who had aspired to be so-called ISIS-brides, and former ISIS fighters who had defected.

Our targeting and design strategy:
Meeting our audience where they are.

To reach our target audience, we used the same tools used by a million advertisers every day to find their target audience: online advertising.

Our content:
Credible content that’s already out there.

Online videos of citizen testimonies, on-the-ground reports, and religious debates comprised the content portfolio. We avoided government-produced content and newly or custom created material, using only existing and compelling YouTube content.

The Redirect Method by the numbers

Learn about how we got there

The Team

This Pilot project was carried out via a global collaboration. Here’s our credits section:

Moonshot CVE coordinated the English-language campaign in close collaboration with Jigsaw; this involved the translation of research into coded databases, design and production of advertising content, creating advertising campaigns, developing targeting keywords, day-to-day campaign management and analysis of campaign results. Learn more about Moonshot CVE

Quantum Communications coordinated the Arabic-language campaign in close collaboration with Jigsaw; this involved the translation of research into coded databases, design and production of advertising content, creating advertising campaigns, developing targeting keywords, day-to-day campaign management and analysis of campaign results. Learn more about Quantum Communications

A team of researchers including Valens Global, Nadia Oweidat laid the groundwork looking at existing online content relevant to the project. They conducted the analytic effort to identify and categorize the most powerful existing online videos that refute important parts of ISIS’s message, and organized this material to make it readily deployable for the pilot campaigns. Learn more about Valens Global

Finally, Jigsaw provided the initial vision, recruited the partners, and incubated the project. Learn more about Jigsaw

This Pilot has involved four researcher partners, videos from 83 different content creators (33 in English and 50 in Arabic), two lead partners, one market research firm and one technology incubator. We believe this collaborative model is particularly powerful. We’re grateful to the many advisors who provided input and advice at every stage of this process, in particular the Gen Next Foundation which is currently supporting our work in North America. Learn more about the Gen Next Foundation.

Engage & Collaborate

Recruitment narratives are tailored to specific audiences and evolve quickly. We’re interested in other approaches and findings into the main drivers of recruitment videos, and the counter-points that can be found in videos uploaded by others online. We’re also eager to hear about relevant keywords and insights that would help others replicate the Method. If you conduct relevant research, manage YouTube channels and AdWords campaigns, want to fund other iterations of the method, or can contribute in other ways, please get in touch.

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