White House Terrorism Strategy, Blames Social Media for Advancing “Extremist Narratives”

By Kenna McHugh Comment

The White House released a terrorism strategy that claims Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks aid in “advancing violent extremist narratives” and should be monitored by the government.

The 12-page strategy delineates procedures and tactical measures to respond to violent extremism, promises stating, “We will continue to closely monitor the important role the Internet and social-networking sites play in advancing violent extremist narratives.”

President Obama made an official statement accompanying the report that the federal government will start “helping communities to better understand and protect themselves against violent extremist propaganda, especially online.”

While much of the White House document is focused on al Qaeda–which The Washington Post recently reported is on the “brink of collapse”–it also talks about domestic terrorists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic groups, and a broad “range of ideologies” that promote radicalization.

If you are thinking what I am thinking: Does this mean monitoring social media will go beyond the practices of U.S. Department of Homeland Security? I am for protecting our country, but what about balancing Americans’ privacy rights?

You might recall in June 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed publicly that its agents create accounts on social-networking sites in some situations. Plus, DHS’s National Operations Center “will monitor activities on the social-media sites” via search engines, aggregators, and other tools. “The NOC will gather, store, analyze, and disseminate relevant and appropriate de-identified information to federal, state, local, and foreign governments, and private sector partners…”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation found documents that DHS officials were sending “friend” requests to people applying for U.S. citizenship. The organization even conducted extensive monitoring of social networks during Obama’s inauguration.

In 2009, CIA investment arm In-Q-Tel in Visible Technologies monitors millions of posts on social-networking Web sites. Tax collectors, too, are “nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The FBI has supported legislation that would allow federal police to monitor the Internet for “illegal activity.”

So, what more could the terrorism strategy monitor?