White House Plans Counter-Attack in Daesh Propaganda War

© Flickr / Alejandro JuárezThe initiatives include a "counterterrorism task force" based at the Department of Homeland Security and the overhaul of a State Department program set up to counter the online appeal of Daesh
The initiatives include a counterterrorism task force based at the Department of Homeland Security and the overhaul of a State Department program set up to counter the online appeal of Daesh - Sputnik International
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The Obama administration is revamping its efforts at preventing the terrorist group from using the internet to attract recruits, including setting up a counter-terrorism task force, US officials said on Thursday.

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The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have compelled the White House to draw up new plans to counter online propaganda from Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) in order to prevent the terrorist group from attracting new recruits, US government officials said on Friday.

"Everybody realizes that this is a moment. . . to take advantage of," a senior official in the Obama administration told the Washington Post, explaining that though some of the measures had already been in development for months; attacks by Daesh members in Europe and the US in recent months have given the initiatives a new urgency.

The initiatives include a "counterterrorism task force" based at the Department of Homeland Security with the assistance of at least 11 other government departments or agencies, and the overhaul of a State Department program that is now being rebranded the 'Global Engagement Center.' However, the strategic changes are not being accompanied by a budget increase, acknowledged officials.

The State Department program, which has a budget of $5 million, was set up to counter the online appeal of Daesh. However, it has faced criticism for producing material unsuitable for dissuading would-be recruits from joining the terrorist group. An official told the Washington Post that one difficulty it faces is quantifying its effect on people who may be being radicalized.

"We don’t have great, perfect data on why people become radicalized or why people change their mind," said the official.

"You can’t prove a negative — 'How many young guys did you prevent from going to Syria today?' — We don’t know the answer to that. What we can do is learn what kinds of messages resonate."

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The bureaucratic reshuffle was announced as a delegation of senior intelligence officials in the Obama administration traveled to Silicon Valley to meet with senior executives from top US tech companies including Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, YouTube, LinkedIn and Dropbox. 

According to reports, the agenda for the meeting on Friday had four areas of discussion. It asked the experts for advice on how to make it harder for terrorists to use the internet to "recruit, radicalize, and mobilize followers to violence," and how to "help others to create, publish, and amplify alternative content that would undercut ISIL."

The intelligence team also asked how technology can be used to disrupt paths to radicalization, identify recruitment patterns and help to quantify efforts aimed at countering radicalization. Finally, they wanted to know how to stop terrorists from using the internet to carry out attacks, and to make it easier for law enforcement and intelligence specialists to prevent attacks.

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