White House announces revamped counter-terrorism propaganda campaign

© Carlos Barria
The new Countering Violent Extremism Task Force will "integrate and harmonize" various federal efforts to neutralize terrorist recruitment, the White House’s national security council senior director, Ned Price, announced Friday.

Combining forces with technology experts, the task force will be primarily run through the Department of Homeland Security with staff from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Counterterrorism Center, and other Department of Justice employees.

“Countering violent extremism has become a homeland security imperative, and it is a mission to which I am personally committed,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, adding that the task force “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."

The announcement followed what senior cabinet officials called a “technological brainstorming meeting,” according to Reuters. The meeting between officials and tech company executives took place in a government office next to City Hall in San Jose. Items on the agenda included discussions of hampering Internet use for terrorists, making it difficult to organize recruits, how to pick up on terrorists’ messaging patterns, producing counter-propaganda, as well as how to deal with encryption.

Federal participants included Secretary Johnson, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, FBI Director James Comey, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. According to a senior administration official source for FedScoop, Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Lisa Monaco and Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith were also present.

On the corporate side, executives from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo were reportedly in attendance. FedScoop reported Apple CEO Tim Cook joined as well.

"We explained our policies and how we enforce them – Facebook does not tolerate terrorists or terror propaganda and we work aggressively to remove it as soon as we become aware of it," a Facebook spokesman told Reuters after the roughly two-hour meeting.

A separate office, the Global Engagement Center, will be run by the Department of State with a specific focus on "empowering and enabling" other partner groups publishing content to counter terrorist propaganda campaigns.

This is take two for the State Department, which left a secret review board with “serious questions about whether the US government should be involved in overt messaging at all” last month. While previous productions featured State’s insignia, future messaging will not, instead adopting a strategy of using languages other than English to not only thwart terrorist propaganda, but also to present “positive alternatives.”