White House Officials To Meet With Tech Execs To Discuss Countering Terrorism Online


Michael Grothaus

January 11, 2016

Representatives from the Obama administration, U.S. intelligence officials, and members of law enforcement will meet today with top executives from some of the country’s biggest tech firms to discuss the ongoing concern of how terrorists have become adept at using social media to recruit members and converts online, according to Reuters.

Expected to attend are high-level executives from Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and more. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook will personally be at the meeting, which takes place at 11 a.m. in San Jose today, but it is not known if the CEOs of the other tech companies will personally be attending, such as Mark Zuckerberg, or if they’ll be sending other top executives.

From the government’s side a host of high-ranking officials will take part in the meeting, including FBI Director James Comey, who will personally attend, along with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Lynch, McDonough, and Clapper are expected to join the meeting via teleconference. Additionally, NSA director Mike Rogers, President Obama’s counterterrorism aide Lisa Monaco, and White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith are expected to attend.

The meeting comes amid growing tensions between the tech sector and the U.S. government in the wake of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations. Virtually all tech companies have spoken out against mass surveillance and the privacy concerns that affect users. However, the meeting will not focus on surveillance but instead on figuring out ways to block terrorist groups from inciting violence and radicalizing and recruiting new members online. The government wants the biggest tech firms to take a more proactive approach to policing and countering terrorist messages on the web.

“The White House sees Silicon Valley as an integral part of fighting the propaganda from ISIL and other groups. There needs to be a concerted effort to fight the ISIL propaganda,” a White House official involved in national security told BuzzFeed News.

One of the main goals of the meeting, according to sources, is to see if tech companies can and are willing to identify terrorist groups’ recruitment patterns and to help make law enforcement aware of them. A secondary goal will be to find ways that companies can help promote alternate content to undercut the messages from terror groups online. The Washington Post also says that encryption could possibly be discussed, but it’s “not a main focus” according to officials.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is attending personally, has strongly voiced his opposition to weakening encryption—something government officials have said is necessary to fight terrorism. The government is likely to make much more headway on the primary topics. Facebook already has a zero-tolerance policy on posts that support terrorism and Twitter, which has traditionally taken a strong free speech stance, has recently updated its terms to state that “threatening or promoting terrorism” violates its user agreement.

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This article was written by Michael Grothaus from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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