White House Says New Task Force Will Fight Terrorism Online
The White House today announced a new task force aimed at combating the spread of terrorist networks online. And in meetings today in Silicon Valley with some of the world’s most powerful companies, government officials are asking the tech community, once more, for help.
The new group, the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force, will comprise members of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. The Department of State, meanwhile, will launch a new group called the Global Engagement Center, which is designed to help the US government work with partners to spread content online that counters terrorist propaganda.
In a statement, the White House confirmed it would be meeting today with Silicon Valley leaders, reportedly including Apple CEO Tim Cook and representatives from Twitter, Facebook, and other companies. In recent speeches, President Obama has said that the US government needs the tech industry’s help to not only track potential terrorists but also to stop terrorist propaganda from proliferating on social media.
Those same tech companies have not always been so eager or willing to comply, not only because they want to protect their users’ rights to privacy and free speech, but also because, as tech companies, they’re not adequately equipped to assume the role of world policeman.
That’s likely why, according to Reuters, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he doesn’t expect any “breakthrough announcements or agreements to emerge.” But this is just one discussion in a long conversation that will, no doubt, extend well past President Obama’s time in office.
The Best and the Brightest
But the president isn’t the only one looking to the companies that helped build these platforms for guidance on how to monitor them.
Hillary Clinton has issued a similar call to tech companies several times on the campaign trail, saying recently, “We need to challenge our best minds in the private sector and work with our best minds in the public sector to develop solutions that would both keep us safe and protect our privacy.”
During last month’s Republican debate, several candidates including Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump, made similar appeals.
It seems that for as much expertise as the US counter-intelligence community has developed over the years, it’s at a loss for strategies that work. The question is: can the tech industry succeed where the world’s brightest defense minds have failed?