Counterterror concerns lead top U.S. officials to Silicon Valley in a bid to disrupt online terrorist activities

Friday, January 15, 2016 by

(Cyberwar.news) The Obama administration is sending top officials to Silicon Valley in an attempt to convince tech-media giants like Facebook, Google and others to help the federal government better monitor potential terrorist activity online, a move that will do nothing to assuage concerns among electronic privacy advocates.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, senior officials held high-level talks with CEOs late last week in what is seen as “an escalation of their attempts to persuade the executives to do more to block terrorists from using the Internet and incite violence, according to people familiar with the plans.”

Obama is sending some of his most powerful officials, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, among others. Analysts said the high level delegation signals how urgent and important a priority this is for the administration. The Guardian added that National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers is also part of the administration delegation.

The WSJ reported that Comey flew to California to be at the meeting, but it wasn’t clear how many other senior officials made the trip and how many decided to join via teleconference.

Tech-media officials from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others were expected to meet with administration officials in San Jose, according to people familiar with the situation.

 

More: Did the Cybersecurity Act just signed by Obama create MORE government spying?

 

The principle reason for the meeting was to press the largest U.S. Internet firms to be more proactive in helping Uncle Sam counter terrorism via online messaging and recruitment, according to sources. It is an issue that has long frustrated American counterterrorism officials who say that militants tend to use social media like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and others to spew terrorist propaganda, gain followers and support, and incite violence.

However, tech-media firms have largely resisted efforts by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement to take any action because they don’t want to be seen by their customers and advertisers as helping the government spy on them, especially following disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Guardian, which claimed to have seen a copy of the meeting agenda, reported that one question being asked of the tech-media giants is, “In what ways can we use technology to help disrupt paths to radicalization to violence, identify recruitment patterns, and provide metrics to help measure our efforts to counter radicalization to violence?”

Electronic privacy watchdogs have frequently voiced concerns that tech-media company cooperation with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies would eventually, if not immediately, once more lead to widespread online surveillance and data collection, scooping up mostly innocent Americans’ private information.

Still, advocates of more federal surveillance have been poll-watching and taking other measures of Americans’ attitude about public safety and the government’s role following the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attacks, WSJ noted. Thus far, however, there as been no clear shift in the public’s attitude regarding support for more electronic surveillance.

See also:

The Wall Street Journal

The Guardian

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