Sheryl Sandberg suggests Facebook 'likes' are a good way to fight Isis

Technically Incorrect: Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Facebook's COO says positive speech can fight terrorism. Is she positive about that?

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Sheryl Sandberg. Can a like-attack really make a difference?

The Guardian screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The only way to fight a bad guy with a hate is a good guy with a "like."

This is the impression left by the words on Wednesday of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

As the Guardian reports, Sandberg was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, when she made some observations about fighting Isis and similarly dangerous groups.

She gave the example of a neo-Nazi party's Facebook page. She described how people with good hearts went onto the page and offered positivity -- a "like-attack," as she called it -- rather than the destructive hate speech.

"The best thing to speak against recruitment by Isis are the voices of people who were recruited by Isis, understand what the true experience is, have escaped and have come back to tell the truth," she said. "Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer."

Clearly, Sandberg's intentions are good. However, even the perception that something as inconsequential as a "like-attack" can truly have a deep effect might trouble some.

Terrorist activity on social networks is a problem that's finally being officially recognized by tech companies. However, there seems to be little agreement between the tech world and the government about what should be done.

Tech CEOs claim to be guarding their privacy rules -- though some seem more flexible about those than others. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, has been a staunch opponent of a so-called backdoor that the government could use to snoop on certain activity.

Earlier this month, executives from Apple, Microsoft and, indeed, Facebook met with government officials to discuss further action that might be taken.

I suspect that action may be clandestine. It's not as if either the government or tech companies are likely to announce that, yes indeed, they're taking more aggressive online action against Isis.

It's not as if ISIS is entirely overt either about which Facebook accounts are promulgators of its cause.

In November, a Facebook spokesman told Wired: "There is no place for terrorists on Facebook. We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism."

They're there, though. Which is why the mere idea of a "like-attack" might seem painfully inconsequential.

Positive words might help the status of relationships. When it comes to terrorist groups, rather more aggressive and covert means might be called for.