Countering ISIS
140 Characters of Jihad

In the age when terrorists can recruit followers from halfway around the world, a question looms over social media companies: how to deal with content posted by jihadi groups. From WashPo:

As the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, continues to hold large parts of Iraq and Syria and inspire terrorist attacks in more and more countries, it has come to rely upon U.S. social-media companies to summon fresh recruits to its cause, spread its propaganda and call for attacks, according to counterterrorism analysts. […]

“ISIS has been confronting us with these really inhumane and atrocious images, and there are some people who believe if you type ‘jihad’ or ‘ISIS’ on YouTube, you should get no results,” Victoria Grand, Google’s director of policy strategy, told The Washington Post in a recent interview. “We don’t believe that should be the case. Actually, a lot of the results you see on YouTube are educational about the origins of the group, educating people about the dangers and violence. But the goal here is how do you strike a balance between enabling people to discuss and access information about ISIS, but also not become the distribution channel for their propaganda?”

Striking a proper balance is an elusive task indeed. Even if there were a clear line of demarkation between “good” and “bad” content, technological shortfalls make it “difficult to distinguish between communiques from terrorist groups and posts by news organizations and legitimate users.”

A recent feature in our magazine’s pages addressed this issue, arguing that it’s high time the Western world takes aggressive action to expel such content from its servers and social media sites. James van de Velde asserts that “[w]ithout contesting extremist use of the internet, the United States and its allies will fail to defeat the Islamic State and to eliminate al-Qaeda, both of which are, let us remember, the stated goals of U.S. policy.” Furthermore, shutting down those sites and accounts isn’t a useless game of whack-a-mole—it can do significant damage to jihadi web presence and slow their operations down. The piece, which can be found here, is worth reading in full—this issue isn’t going away.

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