British government to train moderate Muslims to appear higher on search engines

The British Ministry of Defence plans to train moderate Muslim groups on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that their websites appear higher in search results on the Internet. Government-approved groups will be taught techniques to improve their online profile. The aim is to “flood the internet” with “positive” interpretations of Islam and to make extremist sites less easily accessible.

The project, which is still in its early stages, is part of the Home Office’s anti-radicalisation strategy CONTEST 2. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced in December: “We will host a core network of people who will put forward positive messages from the British Muslim community on the internet, directly challenging the extremists that set out to groom vulnerable individuals.” Academics however doubt the effect of SEO, as it is more likely for young Muslims to encounter extremist material in web forums and offline associates than through search engines, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) has found.