New task force, meeting aim at stopping terrorists online

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Administration officials met with people from various tech companies to discuss how to stop the spread of radical propaganda online.

The U.S. government is setting up a task force on countering violent extremism, spanning multiple cabinet departments and federal agencies, to neutralize and combat the online propaganda messages and other recruitment strategies of radical Islamic terrorist groups.

The White House announced Friday that the task force will mainly be housed in the Department of Homeland Security, with a focus on thwarting the Islamic State’s use of social media to recruit and radicalize followers. The task force will receive input and staffing from the FBI, National Counterterrorism Center and other Justice Department offices.

The announcement comes as senior administration officials spent Friday meeting with top tech company executives to discuss ways in which they could help combat terrorism. A senior administration official told FedScoop that among the attendees from the administration were White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Lisa Monaco, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. Other media reports also listed FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch in attendance.

Executives from Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Microsoft were in attendance, but it was unclear exactly which high-level executives showed up. Multiple reports said Apple CEO Tim Cook attended.

According to an agenda of the meeting, posted online by the Guardian newspaper, officials discussed how tech companies could make it harder to use the Internet to find and mobilize recruits, as well as how technology could be used to identify recruitment patterns and create alternative content that would undermine Islamic State efforts.

The memo also mentioned encryption as a discussion point, which has been a hot topic in Washington as Comey has called on tech companies to devise a way for law enforcement to access encrypted systems.

Additionally, the State Department will also launch a Global Engagement Center, aimed at creating social media campaigns that will counteract the Islamic State’s social media propaganda.

Focus on thwarting the efforts of the Islamic State’s social media campaign have been thrust to the forefront of administration priorities after attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

“Countering violent extremism has become a homeland security imperative, and it is a mission to which I am personally committed,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in a release. “The interagency task force that we are announcing today…will bring together the best resources and personnel from across the executive branch to ensure that we face the challenge of violent extremism in a unified and coordinated way.”

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Department of Justice (DOJ), Departments, Government IT News, Homeland Security, Social Media, State Department
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