When the Obama administration wanted help in countering the success ISIS is having online, they didn’t call the CIA or the Defense Department. They called in the experts – Apple, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Government officials want to be able to monitor and track ISIS communications on the ‘net, and they need answers on the best ways to do that.
While this is not the first time major American brands entered a war, it does signal a sea change in how moderns wars are fought.
In the early days of America’s fight against Fascism in Germany, Italy, and Japan, U.S. companies such as Ford and General Motors turned their factories into productions companies for the war effort. Nowadays, the DOD has its own go-to suppliers, and the war has shifted into new terrain – cyberspace.
ISIS, far from being only a few ignorant Middle Eastern peasants, has done an incredible job using the internet – particularly social media – to connect with sympathizers, recruit fighters, and radicalize others, even in the west. While western coalition forces may be beating ISIS in the field, they are struggling against the radicals’ social media PR efforts.
White House officials expected at the meeting, either in person or by teleconference, include Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The guest list details just how serious the administration is taking this threat.
Officials want to know how they can make it harder for terrorists to use the ‘net to benefit their cause. Tough challenge there.
The second purpose of the meeting and the more important one from a tactical standpoint is how those fighting ISIS can develop and disseminate their own counterprogramming.
Propaganda has been a part of every war in recorded history. Armies use it to pump up their own troops, discourage the enemy and win the hearts and minds of non-combatants on both sides. There is both an art and a science to propaganda messaging. Sometimes it is as sharp as a scalpel. Other times it is as subtle as tossing a flaming torch into a fireworks factory. Counter terrorism expert David Firester, founder and CEO of TRAC Intelligence, said, “Knowing when, how, and how much to employ each of these tactics is a vital operational necessity. Hopefully, these top tech companies can help the U.S. do a better job”.