Facebook Messenger has been used to try to deradicalise extremists in a pilot project funded entirely by the company.
People posting far-right and Islamist content in the UNITED kingdom have been identified and contacted in an attempt to challenge their point of view.
Of the 569 persons contacted, 76 had a conversation of five or more messages and eight showed signs has had a positive impact, researchers say.
Privacy advocates say that means Facebook is forcing surveillance.
Technology companies have been invited to do more to stop extremist material transferred to the their sites, following a series of cases involving people who have been radicalised online.
This pilot was conducted by the counter-extremism organization of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which says that it was trying to imitate the extremists in their methods of recruitment.
He said the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme and the BBC World Service’s World Hack is the software used to scan most of the extreme-right and Islamist page on Facebook for goals. Then manually looked at their profiles to search for cases of violence, dehumanization and hate language.The terrorism survivors
Used 11 “intervention providers” – former extremists, survivors of terrorism or consultants, who were paid Â£25 per hour for eight hours of work a week.
One state, Colin Bidwell, who was captured in Tunisia terrorist attack in 2015.
Under a fake profile, she talked about people who appeared to support Islamic extremism, including some that can support Tunisia, the gunslinger, and had the task of challenging their opinions with chatty conversation and questions.
“I think I have the right to ask those questions after what I went through,” he explained. “If there is the smallest chance that I can make some form of difference or awareness, for me, I’m in.”
Many do not respond, but some entered into long conversations. Mr Bidwell, I would like to talk a little bit about religion, about the effect the attack has had on his wife and concern for the future of his children in a “world of violence”.
“One of the things that I would like to say is that You can have your extreme beliefs, but when it comes to the extreme violence that some do not understand’,” he said.
Other intervention providers to use different tactics depending on their background – a former extremist targeted young women by telling them that she is accustomed to think, as they have done, but that violence was not the answer. ‘Back from the edge’
About half of people that have chose to try to chat with had shown support for Islamic extremism, and half had extreme right sympathies. The group was evenly divided between men and women.
The goal was to “steps back from the edge, potentially, of violence,” said Sasha Havlicek, chief executive of DSI.
“We’re trying to fill a big gap in the response of the online recruitment and radicalisation, and the gap that is in the direct messaging space.
“There is a lot of work that is done to counteract the general propaganda with counter-speech and removing content, but we know that the extremists are very effective in direct messages,” he explained.
“Yet there is no systematic work to be done to achieve that direct contact with individuals being drawn into these groups.”
Privacy activists are concerned about the project, but, above all, that Facebook funded something that has broken its rules through the creation of fake profiles.
Millie Graham-Wood, an attorney at the Privacy International, the charity, said: “If there is stuff that is going to indicate that there should be, Facebook should take it down.
“Even if the organization [ISD] itself may have been involved in doing the research, in the course of many years, that does not mean that it is suitable to create this sort of… supervisory role.”And ‘truly authentic’
Facebook has funded the initiative, but did not disclose how much it had spent. He said not to give ISD special access to its users ‘ profiles.
Its public policy manager, Karim Palant, said that the company does not allow the creation of fake profiles – the project relied on – and he said that the search was done without Facebook interference.
“The research techniques and exactly what they have done was a matter for them,” he said.
During the conversations, the intervention providers do not volunteer the fact that they were working for the ISD, unless asked directly. This has happened seven times during the project, and, on those occasions, the conversation ends, sometimes, after a row.
In total, 569 people were contacted, the researchers say eight of the persons contacted showed signs, in conversations, to rethink their point of view.
Despite the small numbers involved, the ISD claim that the pilot showed online counter-extremism conversation can make all the difference.
You now want to study how it could be expanded, both in italy and abroad, and how a similar method could be used on platforms such as Instagram, Reddit and Twitter.
Watch the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays from 09:00 to 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.