The New York Times ran a disturbing opinion piece about Google by the founder of search engine marketing consulting firm Berlin SEM. In it he discusses counter-messaging ads offering “redirection”, where marketers “swerve your monetizable desperation. But we can also swerve something bigger: your beliefs, convictions and ideology.”
There are advertisers in the digital marketing industry who want to find out how effective this new form of social engineering is. One of those advertisers is Google. Redirect Method was a Google-incubated project that used redirect ads to deradicalize would-be extremists. In the first eight weeks of 2016, some 320,000 people — all of whom were believed to harbor sympathy toward the Islamic State — clicked on ads designed to reflect an interest in extremist content. Instead of arriving at a page that supported their views, Islamic State sympathizers who clicked the ads found themselves directed to a playlist of videos debunking the terror group’s recruitment narratives. Most of the visitors stuck around. Together, they watched more than half a million minutes of video.
After the ISIS campaign ended, Google left behind a blueprint.
The blueprint shows, step by step, how you can create your own redirect ads to sway any belief or opinion — held by any Google user, anywhere in the world — of your choice. You don’t have to be a marketer with years of experience to do this. You just need to follow the instructions and put up a credit card (a few hundred bucks will suffice). Recently, I followed the blueprint and created a redirect campaign of my own… The goal of my first redirect campaign was to sway the ideology of suicidal people.
Nearly one in three apparently suicidal searchers who viewed his ad then dialed his hotline number — which then forwarded the calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. But he expressed surprise that Google “let me run the ads with no issue… I didn’t need…