People looking for far-right political campaigns are being tricked into watching videos supportive of refugees.
The German organisation Flüchtlinge Willkommen (Refugees Welcome) is using online advertising to divert people into watching videos about the plight of refugees.
If, for instance, someone is searching through YouTube to look for right-wing groups, they’ll instead be shown unskippable ads that look to rebut their prejudices, using “facts, personal anecdotes, surprising revelations and even humour”.
Platforms like Google and YouTube let advertisers choose the specific keywords and kinds of videos that their ads will appear in front of. But advertisers don't get any choice – they can switch off advertising, but otherwise the platforms themselves decide what sort of advertising will appear.
Refugees Welcome hopes that the campaign could even cut off the funding for some extremist groups like Pegida, since they will be forced to either let people play the videos or deactivate advertising and lose any revenues that come from it.
The organisation has focused on specific channels and keywords that are used to share right-wing extremist views. Using that specific filtering, it has taken out specific ads, which the searchers won’t be able to skip past.
“We want to use the targeted placement of ads to get viewers of right-wing extremist videos thinking, and ideally to even change their minds,” said Marieke Geiling, the organisation’s founder. “At the same time, we will weaken the power of right-wing agitators and force them to deactivate advertising on their channels. So we’re excited to see how long it will still be possible to place ads before Pegida videos and thus help to finance the hate.”
The ads have been made in partnership with nine refugees, including the Berlin-based Syrian filmmaker Firas al-Shater. They focus on a specific prejudice or subject, the group said, and those specific topics will be matched with keywords so that people see pro-refugee content that matches what they are searching for.
The organisation hopes that means that people will see the most effective rebuttal for whatever specific content they are trying to find – and so serve as the best way of convincing them that what they believe is wrong.
“We hope this campaign will contribute to greater awareness and a more cosmopolitan outlook in the very place where hatred and incitement against foreigners spread the fastest: online,” said Jonas Kakoschke, another founder of Flüchtlinge Willkommen.
The campaign is being run under the banner “Search racism. Find truth”. The organisation said that it is being paid for with an earmarked donation and not from funds donated by other supporters.
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