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White House Asks Silicon Valley for Help Fighting Islamic State

Hacker claiming allegiance to Islamic State briefly took control of the Twitter account of US Central Command last year.

Hacker claiming allegiance to Islamic State briefly took control of the Twitter account of US Central Command last year.

Senior Obama administration officials met with leading Silicon Valley executives and asked for their help combating Islamic State recruitment and propaganda efforts on social media sites.

The Guardian reports Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough were among the top Obama officials who met with executives from Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and other tech titans in San Jose, California on Friday. The attendees discussed how to counter the use of social media by Islamist militant groups including Islamic State.

According to a briefing document sent to tech executives on Friday, the administration is seeking to make it more difficult for terrorist groups to operate online:

How can we make it harder for terrorists to leveraging the Internet to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize followers to violence? How can we help others to create, publish, and amplify alternative content that would undercut ISIL? 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? How can we make it harder for terrorists to use the Internet to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize attacks, and make it easier for law enforcement and the intelligence community to identify terrorist operatives and prevent attacks?

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price invoked the recent Islamist terror attacks in the Paris and San Bernardino as proof of “the need for the United States and our partners in the international community and the private sector to deny violent extremists like ISIL fertile recruitment ground.”

FBI Director Comey also cited the recent terror attacks in an effort to convince tech industry leaders of the importance of adopting encrypted devices. Comey asked tech executives to consider altering encryption standards so law enforcement authorities can decode private messages sent by terrorism suspects.

While there has been tension between the White House and Silicon Valley over a host of issues, most notably Internet privacy and surveillance issues, summit attendees said tech executives seemed willing to cooperate with the government in its war against terrorism.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the conversation,” Matthew Prince, CEO of San Francisco-based security and network company CloudFlare, told the Guardian. Christopher Young, who heads Intel’s security group, said it was “a good discussion today.”

While Facebook would not discuss particular details of the closed-door meeting, company spokeswoman Melanie Ensign told CNN Money that the “meeting confirmed that we are united in our goal to keep terrorists and terror-promoting material off the Internet” and stressed that “Facebook does not tolerate terrorists or terror propaganda and we work aggressively to remove it as soon as we become aware of it.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that many of the tech executives at the meeting are “patriotic Americans” who want to help their country fight terrorism. Earnest admitted that “a lot of complicated First Amendment issues” could pose challenges to the administration’s efforts but said there is “some common ground that we should be able to find” to balance privacy and security.

In a separate Friday briefing, Earnest said the administration is seeking “ways to create, publish and amplify content… that counteracts the radicalizing messaging from [ISIS] and other extremists.”

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