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Google Takes On Violent Extremism

Gets former extremists together for three days of workshops

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Google, along with partners, is holding a Summit Against Violent Extremism for three days of debates and workshops with former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists, and militants in Dubland. All of these people, Google says, have “rejected violence,” and currently work for groups recognized by governments and law enforcement, that fight extremism.

The project is part of Google Ideas, a think tank developed to “bring experts on global challenges from a variety of sectors, disciplines and experiences, together with people who have a deep understanding of technology.” It is being put on in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Tribeca Film Festival.

“Extremists have taken advantage of new Internet technologies to spread their message,”says Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen. “We believe technology also can become part of the solution, helping to engineer a turn away from violence.”

James Lindsay, SVP of the Council on Foreign Relations, and friend of Cohen’s wrote on the Council on Foreign Relations’ site when the Summit was first announced back in March:

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” either 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.

Approximately fifty former extremists are expected to participate in the Summit, along with more than 200 representatives from civil society organizations, academia, technology companies, victims’ and survivors groups, government, media, and the private sector. They represent a wide spectrum of voices and experiences coming from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the United States, and Europe, including Ireland. Victims of violence will also be represented.

Google Ideas tweeted out the following video about “The Formers” today:

Also attending the summit, are survivors of violent extremism and academics.

“Google Ideas seeks to bring the ideas of a wide range of thinkers to bear on the most vexing and intractable challenges of the 21st century,” says Cohen. “Some of these challenges are aligned with our core business and others with our philanthropic mission. Some are hugely important but few have been willing to tackle them because they are controversial. Given that technology has demonstrated it can be part of every problem, we want to make sure it is part of every solution. We hope to tackle the thorniest of issues. Challenges such as violent extremism.”

The summit lasts from today until 06-29. The ideas generated at the summit will be published in a study later this year, Google says. Below are some early tweets from Lindsay and Cohen from the Summit:

Extremist groups help powerless feel powerful. Susan Cruz, former gang member: rather be perpetrator than victim. #AVE 4 hours ago via Twitter for iPad · powered by @socialditto

Finding common ground across different extremes #ave http://yfrog.com/ke1n9gj 4 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® · powered by @socialditto

Session 1 of #AVE wraps up. Gill Hicks’ powerful/moving closing thought: living the consequences of violent extremism. No hate in my heart. 4 hours ago via Twitter for iPad · powered by @socialditto

Former gang member susan cruz says, “I was not viewing myself as a human being” #ave 4 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® · powered by @socialditto

Former neo-nazi TJ Leyden says, “if I didn’t want my sons to be me, then what was wrong with my lifestyle and my beliefs.” #ave 4 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® · powered by @socialditto

“When I was in prison, it was an absolute insult to my intelligence,” former gang member, susan cruz #ave 4 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® · powered by @socialditto

.@ericshmidt on measuring success of Summit #AVE: participants leave here and do something positive. Connecting people with shared passion. 3 hours ago via Twitter for iPad · powered by @socialditto

Looking at patterns of radicalization at the Summit #ave http://yfrog.com/gyqycjgj 36 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® · powered by @socialditto

Imam Ashafa of Interfatith Mediation Centre in Nigeria: fear of loss of identify powerful driver of radicalization. A common theme. #AVE. 26 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Eric Gibson: “There was nothing else interesting for me to do.” Joining a gang inevitable. #ave 29 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Angela king, former skinhead, says “I took fear and mistook it for respect” #ave 35 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® · powered by @socialditto

Eric Gibson: The lure of joining a gang. “You’re trying to find something to be a part of.” #AVE 21 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Good Q: MT @RuthTurner: Sense of isolation/rejection in many stories palpable/moving. But not everyone rejected violent extremist. Why? #ave 12 minutes ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

While on the topic, why not watch our recent interview with government defense consultant Charles Dodd, who (among other things) talks about how terrorists use social media for recruiting:

Google Takes On Violent Extremism
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