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US Government, Spooks, Tech Giants Meet For ISIS Showdown

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Silicon Valley meets US government and others to discuss ways to combat terrorist use of social media

Executives from technology giants such as Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are meeting today with the US government, as well as US intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials.

The meeting is to discuss ways that Silicon Valley can help combat the growing use of social media by terrorist groups such as ISIS.

High-Level Meeting

The meeting is taking place in a government building in San Jose, and will also involve executives from companies such as LinkedIn and Dropbox, according to the Guardian.

There is no word on which tech executives will attend the meeting, but it seems that the US authorities are sending a very high-level delegation to the meeting.

US government attendees include Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, who is leading the delegation. Also attending will be the chairman of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers and the director of national intelligence James Clapper.

The FBI is also represented by director James Comey.

The purpose of the meeting, according to the agenda obtained by the Guardian, will discussed a number of ways to tackle terrorist use of technology.

Firstly, “how can we make it harder for terrorists to leveraging the internet to recruit, radicalise, and mobilize followers to violence?,” says point one of the agenda.

The second point deals with how tech and government can encourage others to create, publish, and amplify alternative content that would undercut ISIL.

“In what ways can we use technology to help disrupt paths to radicalisation to violence, identify recruitment patterns, and provide metrics to help measure our efforts to counter radicalisation to violence?” is the third discussion point.

And finally, “how can we make it harder for terrorists to use the internet to mobilise, facilitate, and operationalise attacks, and make it easier for law enforcement and the intelligence community to identify terrorist operatives and prevent attacks?”

Encryption Battle?

It remains to be seen whether US authorities will broach the touchy subject of encryption, which has long been a source of contention between tech firms and law enforcement.

obamaflagusgovernment © spirit of america / Shutterstock.comThe tech industry has in the past publicly warned the Obama administration not to weaken encryption, and the White House has recently abandoned its efforts to create so called “encryption backdoors”.

Earlier this week, the Dutch government declared its opposition to any weakening of encryption.

But that it not to say that the tech industry has not taken notice of the current state of terrorist attacks around the world.

Twitter for example recently updated its policies for policing its content to explicitly prohibit trolls, extremists, and “hateful conduct.”

Other websites have similarly updated their abuse policies within the past 18 months.

In December Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said that technology firms should work together to tackle terrorism on the internet. He proposed a “hate spellchecker”.

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