|Google Ideas (2010–2015)|
|Headquarters||New York City, United States|
|Jared Cohen (CEO)|
Jigsaw, formerly Google Ideas, is a technology incubator created by Google, and now operated as a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. Based in New York City, Jigsaw is dedicated to understanding global challenges and applying technological solutions, from "countering extremism", online censorship and cyber-attacks, to protecting access to information. Jared Cohen, formerly with the Policy Planning Committee at the US State Department, is the founder and CEO of Jigsaw, and was formerly founder and director of Google Ideas.
In 2010, Eric Schmidt approached Jared Cohen to lead Google Ideas, as a "think/do tank" to research issues at the intersection of technology and geopolitics, and has worked on projects intended to protect activists and independent media from cyber-attacks. Google Ideas also set a moon-shot goal of ending censorship within a decade.
Under the leadership of Jared Cohen, Ideas brought together a team of Google engineers, research scientists, product managers, and policy experts to address these issues. The team also hosted a number of conferences, the most recent of which was the Conflict in a Connected World Roundtable Series, in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center of Preventative Action. It has come under scrutiny for its links with the US State Department and its regime change activities.
In February 2016, Eric Schmidt announced in a Medium post the expansion of Google Ideas to a technology incubator named Jigsaw. According to Schmidt, the new name "reflects our belief that collaborative problem-solving yields the best solutions" and the team's mission "is to use technology to tackle the toughest geopolitical challenges, from countering violent extremism to thwarting online censorship to mitigating the threats associated with digital attacks." Jigsaw will also leverage more of Alphabet's engineering talent and resources to build more sophisticated products.
In February 2017, Jigsaw and Google launched the free Perspective API, "a new tool for web publishers to identify toxic comments that can undermine a civil exchange of ideas." Using machine learning technology, Perspective offers a score from zero to 100 on how similar new comments are to others previously identified as toxic, defined as how likely a comment will make someone leave a conversation. Publishers can use Perspective in a number of ways, from offering readers instant feedback on the toxicity of their comments to giving readers the power to filter conversations based on the level of toxicity they'd like to see. Jigsaw claims "its AI can immediately spit out an assessment of the phrase’s “toxicity” more accurately than any keyword blacklist, and faster than any human moderator." Perspective's launch partners included The New York Times, The Guardian, The Economist and Wikipedia.
In June 2017, The New York Times announced that as a result of the partnership with Jigsaw, the Times will offer comments on all top stories and scale comments to 80% of its articles by the end of the year.
Project Shield is a free anti-distributed denial-of-service (anti-DDoS) service that is offered by Jigsaw to websites that have "media, elections, and human rights related content." The main goal of the project is to serve "small, under-resourced news sites that are vulnerable to the web’s growing epidemic of DDoS attacks", according to team lead George Conard. It is similar to services offered by companies like Cloudflare. Google initially announced Project Shield at their Ideas Conference on October 21, 2013. The service was initially only offered to trusted testers, but on February 25, 2016, Google opened up the service to any qualifying website. The service works by having the website use Google's IP's, and traffic is routed through a Google-owned reverse proxy that identifies and filters malicious traffic.
Project Shield provides news, human rights, and election monitoring sites with protection from DDoS cyber-attacks by a system of caching (storing the data from the protected website to reduce load on the site). It also filters traffic to thwart DDoS attacks. Project Shield is built on Google Cloud Platform. It is provided free of charge to the qualifying websites of independent journalists, human rights, and elections monitoring websites to protect them regardless of their location and Project Shield as of 2016 October has users in Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa. Project Shield rescued Brian Krebs's security blog from a then-unprecedented DDoS attack that knocked the website entirely offline.
In March 2017, Jigsaw launched a campaign called "Protect Your Election," a suite of free tools to help protect access to information during elections. These tools include Shield, Password Alert and two-step verification.
The Redirect Method is an open source methodology developed by Jigsaw that leverages Google's AdWords platform and YouTube to target potential ISIS recruits and dissuade them from joining the group. Redirect, which was based off interviews with ISIS defectors and jailed recruits, "places advertising alongside results for any keywords and phrases that Jigsaw has determined people attracted to ISIS commonly search for. Those ads link to Arabic- and English-language YouTube channels that pull together preexisting videos Jigsaw believes it can effectively undo ISIS’s [influence]—clips like testimonials from former extremists, imams denouncing ISIS’s corruption of Islam, and surreptitiously filmed clips inside the group’s dysfunctional caliphate in Northern Syria and Iraq."
Jigsaw claims that during a pilot project conducted in early 2016, its advertising was three to four times more effective than a normal campaign, and "those who clicked spent more than twice as long viewing the most effective playlists than the best estimates of how long people view YouTube as a whole." Jigsaw published the detailed steps for the methodology under a creative commons license on a Github repository.
uProxy is an extension for Chrome and Firefox web browsers which allows users to access the Internet via a web proxy. The extension works by enabling a user to share their Internet connection with someone else. The extension is intended to allow users, often in repressive societies, to get more secure access to the Internet without being monitored. Jigsaw provided funding for the development which was carried out by the University of Washington and Brave New Software — the same organization behind the anti-censorship tool Lantern. It has been used in over one hundred countries and is free/libre software under Apache license 2.0.
Other Jigsaw projects include Sideways Dictionary, Password Alert, Unfiltered.news, Digital Attack Map, and Montage (graduated to Storyful). In March 2017, Jigsaw partnered with The Washington Post to launch Sideways Dictionary, a community-driven collection of analogies to explain complex tech jargon. Sideways Dictionary is available as a Chrome extension and on The Washington Post. Password Alert helps protect against phishing attacks; according to WIRED, "the company developed it for Syrian activists targeted by government-friendly hackers, but when it proved effective, it was rolled out to all of Google’s users."
Unfiltered.news "uses Google News data to show users what topics are being under-reported or are popular in regions around the world," and the Digital Attack Map displays the top digital attacks in the world in real time. Montage is a program that "lets war correspondents and nonprofits crowdsource the analysis of YouTube videos to track conflicts and gather evidence of human rights violations." In May 2016, Jigsaw announced it had partnered with Vice News on a five-part documentary series called Blackout to examine free expression around the world.
Jigsaw also helped develop CopCast, an open source project that can turn any Android phone into a body-worn camera system for law enforcement. In June 2017, USA Today reported that the Jersey City Police Department will scale this technology to more than 250 officers.
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