Government Officials, Technology Leaders Tackle Terrorism at Summit

PHOTO: The Twitter app on a cell phone.AP Photo
The Twitter app on a cell phone.

Senior Obama administration officials met today with technology representatives to discuss ways to work together to combat terrorism at a time when ISIS is carrying out an unprecedented social media recruitment campaign.

The meeting, which took place in San Jose, California, is aimed at making it harder for terrorists to utilize social media to reach followers, using technology to prevent radicalization and promote anti-ISIS content, according to an industry source.

Representatives from Twitter, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Microsoft and YouTube planned to participate in the discussion.

The Obama administration has been putting pressure on technology companies to help diminish the impact that ISIS is having on social media, as well work together to prevent communication between terrorists online. During his State of the Union speech last year, Obama called on high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to their advantage.

"The administration has been clear about the importance of government and industry working together to confront terrorism,” said a senior Obama administration official ahead of the meeting.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were among the attendees at the meeting.

“With the widespread horizontal distribution of social media, terrorists can identify vulnerable persons of all ages in the United States — spot, assess, recruit, and radicalize —either to travel or to conduct a homeland attack. The foreign terrorist now has direct access into the United States like never before,” Comey said in December.

Comey has repeatedly discussed the importance of industry and government working together to fight against ISIS’s use of social media for recruitment, as well as concerns about “going dark,” in which ISIS uses encrypted messaging to communicate.

“The United States government is actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors’ use of their encrypted products and services,” he said at the time.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he was encouraged that the administration was reaching out to tech companies to discuss encryption and the use of social media by terror organizations.

“We want these companies to be globally successful, and need their help in the fight against terror. The willingness of the technology industry to work collaboratively with law enforcement and the intelligence community to find solutions that enhance our security while maintaining our privacy will be critical to meeting the broad array of challenges we face," Schiff said in a statement today.

The White House National Security Council also announced today new initiatives to fight against violent extremism, including a new inter-agency task force, a center at the State Department to empower international partners, and ongoing efforts to work with the tech industry to crack down on the use of social media to recruit terrorists.

-Ben Siegel and John Parkinson contributed reporting.