How The Obama Administration Is Asking Tech Companies To Help Combat ISIS

WASHINGTON — In response to the Islamic State’s savvy use of social media to spread its messages and publicize its deeds, the Obama administration says it is ramping up engagement with the tech sector, approaching big-name Silicon Valley companies to ask about boosting anti-terrorism narratives from people outside of the government.

Over the last few months, the Islamic State — the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL — has put the Obama administration in the unenviable position of playing digital catch-up. The group’s videos of executions of U.S. citizens are expertly produced and then widely disseminated on popular platforms like YouTube. By the time the U.S. government has verified the authenticity of a given video, it’s already gone viral. Tech companies are left playing whack-a-mole with the accounts spreading the videos.

The Obama administration acknowledged in The New York Times last week that the government is “getting beaten” by the sheer volume of social media outreach coming from Islamic State supporters. So the government is now hoping to round up every ally it can, no matter how unlikely — from Twitter representatives to ordinary social media users — to help it fight back.

“Our engagement with the tech sector is intensifying because of the nature of the threat,” said a State Department official with knowledge of the efforts.

In April 2012, Google Ideas launched Against Violent Extremism, an online network that aims to provide a platform for former violent extremists and victims to connect. Google’s YouTube has also hosted “Abdullah-x,” a cartoon that features a Muslim spreading anti-jihadi messages. This might seem insufficient to counter the wildfire-like spread of the Islamic State’s beheading videos, but counter-speech is only one part of Google’s anti-terrorism efforts.

Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications and public policy at Google, said in a speech earlier this month to the Bavarian parliament in Munich that Google automatically terminates the account of any terror group and allows law enforcement to flag videos containing terrorist content.

“All of us have been horrified by ISIS and their use of the media to spread propaganda,” she said.

The Huffington Post