Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Forward 50 2011

Jared Cohen

For his first initiative as head of Google’s new think tank, Google Ideas, Jared Cohen convened a meeting of 80 one-time violent extremists to talk about what had drawn them to radicalism and what had made them leave it behind. The meeting was a bold venture that made some leading academics nervous, but Cohen, 29, was undeterred. Not only did Google Ideas pull off the June convention without a hitch, the event gave rise to The Formers, an online network of ex-radicals devoted to countering violent extremism.

Cohen’s first endeavor with Google Ideas embodied the formula he has used for investigating intractable world problems since his days as an Oxford University graduate student: Eschew official sources and get the story from the grass roots; think in broad, unencumbered strokes and harness technology to effect change. Cohen deployed these techniques as a U.S. State Department staffer in 2009, getting into hot water with the Obama administration when he asked Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance and keep its site live for Iran’s tweeting revolutionaries.

Cohen makes it a point to text and tweet teens in the Middle East, especially those from countries with chilly relationships with Israel: Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Cohen visited those countries as he was researching his book, “Children of Jihad: A Young American’s Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East.” His book takes note of how young Arabs are using technology to communicate with one another and with the outside world, beyond the watchful eyes of government officials — a narrative that seemed to presage the Arab Spring.

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.