Google Ideas launches Summit Against Violent Extremism

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog.)

When Google decided to set up a think/do tank, we vowed to avoid the safe route.

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. 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.

Why does a 13-year old boy in a tough neighborhood in South Central LA join a gang? Why does a high school student in a quiet, Midwestern American town sign on neo-Nazis who preach white supremacy? Why does a young woman in the Middle East abandon her family and future and become a suicide bomber?

In order to advance our understanding, Google Ideas is today convening the Summit Against Violent Extremism, bringing together former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists and militants in Dublin for three days of debates and workshops. All these "formers" have rejected violence and are working for groups recognized by governments and law enforcement that fight extremism. Extremists have taken advantage of new Internet technologies to spread their message. We believe technology also can become part of the solution, helping to engineer a turn away from violence.

We're also inviting survivors of violent extremism who are engaged in some of the most important activism around this issue. They will remind us of the horrors and loss associated with the challenge of violent extremism. Representatives from civil society, along with a stellar group of academics, will participate and provide additional texture.

Our partners in this venture are the Council on Foreign Relations, which will look at the policy implications, and the Tribeca Film Festival, which emerged out of the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the the World Trade Center and which will explore the role of film and music on and in fighting extremism.

Together, we aim to initiate a global conversation on how best to prevent young people from becoming radicalised and how to de-radicalise others. The ideas generated at the Dublin summit will be included in a study to be published later in the year. We are undertaking this project without preconceptions. We aren't expecting quick answers or "silver bullets." Instead, we're looking to increase understanding of a critical problem and find some new approaches to combat it. Stay tuned as we attempt to marry ideas and action.