February 24, 2018

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Terrorists find new ways to recruit online, DHS chief says – CNET

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US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday that terrorists will turn to blogs, chat rooms and encrypted chat apps to keep spreading their message online.

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As major tech companies get better at ridding their platforms of gory videos and calls to commit violence, terrorists are finding new ways to post their messages, Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, said Tuesday.

“They’ve continued to demonstrate their will,” Nielsen said, noting that blogs, chat rooms and encrypted chat apps can serve as ways for terrorist groups to radicalize and recruit new members.

Nielsen spoke at an the 2018 Digital Forum on Terrorism Prevention in Silicon Valley focused on counterterrorism efforts on the internet. The event took place at Palantir, a data analysis firm that contracts with government agencies in counterterrorism operations. 

Nielsen’s remarks hinted at the tangle of challenges faced by the tech world and the government alike when it comes to terrorists on the internet. Tech companies have had to learn how to keep ISIS, for example, from running Twitter accounts, or from sharing graphic videos involving beheadings or other forms of executions on YouTube. Meanwhile, DHS says it has developed a strategy of supporting people within communities where recruitment is taking place who want to spread a counterterrorism message, rather than trying to put out its own “terrorism doesn’t pay” style communications.

In fighting ISIS, that involves supporting “Imams and moms,” Nielsen said. In dealing with the threat from white supremacists, she added, the agency looks to people who’ve left organizations driving that movement to help fight recruitment and calls to violence.

While thanking the tech companies partnering with DHS on the effort to remove and respond to online terrorist recruitment, Nielsen said she wants to be realistic. After all, the internet is vast.

“Users around the world post four hours of content every minute,” Nielsen noted.

Nielsen highlighted the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, an effort led by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter that was announced in June, as a key factor in removing terrorist recruitment content from their sites. In December, the companies announced they were sharing information with each other to identify users posting terrorist content.

Joining Nielsen was UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who said technology like machine learning will be instrumental in finding and removing online recruitment content. The UK is partnering with machine learning company ASI Data Science for just this purpose.

This technology “ultimately can prevent content being made available to internet users in the first place,” Rudd said.

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