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The role social media companies play in combating terrorism online is evolving

The role social media companies play in combatting terrorism online is evolving (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

It’s no secret the internet has become one of the most sacred battlefields for terrorists. Not only have groups like Isis fought their messaging war online; It’s also where they’ve rallied and recruited tens of thousands of troops as well.

Two years ago, a report by The Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI) pointed the finger squarely at social media companies role in attracting a “new Jihadi generation.”

Since then companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google have taken a more active role which they have said helps their bottom line as well.

“People share more they do more when they feel safe,” said Brian Fishman, Lead Policy Manager for Counter-Terrorism at Facebook.

He was speaking on a panel at a recent forum on Combating Online Extremism at George Washington University last month.

In an interview he added, “there is no place on Facebook for the support of terrorism and when we find that kind of content we will remove it. The trick, of course, is you have to find that kind of content the most important way is we get reports from our community.”

While critics of social media companies are happy for the increased involvement, many have said much more needs to be done.

“We shouldn’t have to wait for a human being to see a jihadi manual,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a Terror Expert with The Brookings Institution in Washington. He favors a more active approach.

“We should have artificial intelligence at the Facebooks and Twitters, methods that are constantly scanning content and looking for things that fit with previous malevolent designs or information and that stuff should be taken down instantaneously and then you can apologize later or if it was an incorrect over-vigilant reaction you can put the account back.”

Other experts argue activity is getting harder and harder to track.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter may be where some relationships begin, but once the trust is gained, they say the conversation is almost always taken to more secure, encrypted messaging apps like What’s App or Telegram.

“They’re able to discuss things with them in real time, build up what feels like more genuine relationships,” said Alexander Hitchens, with GWU’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security.

In some ways, making lonely, disgruntled or disenfranchised youth feel like they are part of something, could be one of terrorists greatest weapons.

“Before a lot of this was happening in online forums where people would post messages but there wouldn’t be this real-time interaction. An outcrop of this real-time interaction is that people will make direct connections,” Hitchens said.

They are direct connections which have led to real attacks and continue to present real threats to the security of our nation and our allies, Hitchens said.

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