Eric Schmidt wants tech companies to build 'spell-checkers' for hate
Top Google exec worried that, without tools, internet could move more people apart than together
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, has called for technology companies to build deterrents to hate and harassment online, that could also combat terrorism.
The chairman of Google's parent company wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times that he wants "spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment" on the internet. He argued that technology companies, governments and users can work together to make the web a healthier place for discourse.
"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," he wrote.
"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."
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Organizations like ISIS have been using the internet and social media to further their campaigns and recruit new members. One of the San Bernardino shooters had recently pledged her allegiance to ISIS on Facebook, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.
Schmidt also expressed worries about countries where social media is used to target either certain ethnic groups or dissent against the government. He specifically referenced "online trolls" in Russia and Burma, also known as Myanmar.
"They are deluding some people to believe that living a life fuelled by hatred and violence is actually … cool," Schmidt wrote.
Despite the constant vitriol present online, he added that social media has facilitated quite a few world-changing events.
The internet has "created safe spaces for communities to connect, communicate, organize and mobilize, and it has helped many people to find their place and their voice," he wrote, pointing to the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong and the Arab Spring throughout the Middle East and north Africa.
In his Sunday night speech in response to the San Bernardino attack U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned similar challenges governments now face as the distance between people becomes irrelevant.
"As the internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people," he said.
That same day, also in Washington, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a speech to the Brookings Institution that organizations like ISIS should be monitored and blocked online if possible.
"If we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we've got to shut off their means of communicating," she said.
Alan Woodward, a visiting professor at the University of Surrey's cyber security centre, believes that these calls come with assumptions over what counts as hateful.
"There is a danger of assuming that what those in liberal, Western democracies find offensive is considered the same elsewhere," Woodward told Newsweek. "More importantly, what we believe should be 'free speech' can be considered 'hate speech' by other cultures."