Sunday, October 9, 2011

State Dept Uses Social Networks to Counter Radicalization

Via Washington Times (Oct 5, 2011) -

Anwar al-Awlaki may be dead, but the war he helped al Qaeda wage for the hearts and minds of Muslims continues — and on the battlefield of social media, the United States is fighting back with what critics say is a tiny and ineffectual army.

Fewer than 10 diplomats make up the State Department’s digital-outreach team, which is charged with countering al Qaeda’s recruitment efforts via social networks, blog posts and Internet videos, according to current and former officials.

The “eight or nine” team members hang out online with angry young Muslims to steer them away from terrorist radicalization, a senior State Department official said on background.

“We’re in the business of trying to cut down the supply of people who want to kill Americans,” the official said.

The team is part of a new interagency initiative at the State Department called the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which President Obama established last month by executive order.

Team members declare up front that they represent the U.S. government before joining Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms where young men discuss current events and religion, the State Department official said.

The team has Urdu and Arabic speakers and is “adding Somali to the mix,” the official said. They are “focused on those people that al Qaeda is trying to recruit those young men who are vulnerable to al Qaeda’s mythologization of itself.”

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