Hillary Clinton would like to see Silicon Valley disrupting ISIL. She said that the terrorist organization is now “the most effective recruiter in the world,” beating the best corporations at their game.
Speaking at the Saban Forum, which gathers at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination sketched out a solution that involves technology companies. “We need to put the great disrupters at work at disrupting ISIS,” she said, using another name for the Islamist group.
Clinton wants tech companies to be working with the government to shut down terrorist-affiliated social media accounts, which jihadists use to spread their message, recruit fighters and call for attacks. “Resolve means depriving jihadists of virtual territory, just as we work to deprive them of actual territory,” she said.
Social media platforms have been engaged in a balancing act, in which they try to help with the fight against terror, but also avoid coming off as censors, who control the internet in cooperation with the government. Facebook, Google, and Twitter all ban certain forms of content, such as praising terrorism or execution footage, and take down undesirable accounts, often flagged by users. They require court orders to do anything beyond that, but authorities have found workarounds such as flagging content as prohibited under a given company’s own terms of service.
The platforms worry that a perception that they cooperate with Western authorities on fighting terrorism too closely would set a dangerous precedent globally, giving other governments arguments for web censorship.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, is adamant about pressing Silicon Valley into working with authorities. “You’ll hear all the usual complaints—freedom of speech. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding and shut off the flow of foreign fighters, we have to shut off their means of communicating,” she said in Washington. She was echoing an earlier speech she gave in November at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
One of the flashpoints of the debate is encryption, which tech companies are pushing to improve after the Snowden revelations on the extent of US government surveillance.