Would greater censorship of social media and the internet be effective in combating terrorism?

Myrtle Beach, SC, Orlando, FL December 7, 2015

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Combatting terrorism involves many strategies, particularly since the insidious and rapid advances of terrorism over the last year. With the recent San Bernardino attacks, it is obvious that the persons involved in the massacre were active in a number of social media and internet interactions.

The wife of the gunman in the attacks posted her pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State through Facebook. Later, Islamic State terrorists issued a celebration of the killings via twitter, using, in Arabic, the hashtag #America Burning.” Facebook data indicates that the social media giant has over one billion active users alone, and 300 of them are online recruiters for ISIS and other terrorist organization operatives. It is evident, and has been for some time, that Islamic terrorists have seriously utilized and promoted their causes through social media and the internet.

With little to no intervention from the current administration concerning the creeping effects of terrorist activity in America, perhaps greater censorship of social media and the internet would be one way to combat terrorism. The politically correct atmosphere that has developed in the last seven plus years has made it increasingly difficult to police and monitor certain organizations and groups, due to the outcries concerning racial profiling, discrimination, abuse, and the clamor of rights under the Constitution. The protection provided terrorists and would-be terrorists has stymied any solid efforts to scrutinize their activities.

With the ever increasing boldness and audacity of terrorists to use social media and the internet as platforms for their propaganda videos, fundraising, proclamations, religious fanaticism, recruitment, death threats, executions, online publications, training manuals, weapons tutorials, chatting interaction, announcements, and other activities, it is more than evident that overseeing social media sites has to be made a serious consideration in spite of political correctness. As far as the Constitution protecting terrorists, protection for terrorists should be nonexistent as they have relinquished their rights to free speech through their criminal acts and harmful and threatening words that transition into acts of terror.

The latest fallout from the attack in California has exerted pressure on social media to fight terrorism, and with active ISIS recruiters and members of affiliated groups online, some definitive strategies for monitoring terrorist activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and You Tube need to be instituted. Apparently the social media sites of Facebook, Google and Twitter are speeding up their efforts to thwart online recruiting and propaganda, but they are doing it under the wire, so to speak, to obscure the appearance of going along with authorities on policing the internet.

Any strategy should include a heightened push to monitor and intercept encrypted messages that terrorists use to converse with one another. With the aid of internet partnership groups and citizen groups, internet companies can be helped in identifying and understanding national security threats, propaganda and terrorist activity patterns. In spite of first amendment rulings, webmasters who build and manage terrorist sites should be shut down and fully prosecuted for disseminating any dangerous and subversive information. The same must be true of any website or internet activity that recruits terrorists and asks for money to support them. Defunding and destroying financial operatives and networks puts a wedge in their internet use. Other ideas that should be explored include setting up dummy terrorist websites that can be used to disperse disinformation and sidetrack terrorists, along with expanded programs that educate and bring awareness of online radicalization to the attention of those using the internet, including teachers, parents, children and their communities. People have to be made aware of what radicals are doing on the internet and engage in the process of combating terrorist activities with knowledge and the right resources to overcome internet radicals.

The only way to counter terrorism on the internet is to beat terrorists at their own game. It starts with dropping the political correctness banner, cracking their codes, monitoring and intervening in their streams of communication, banning and removing their websites and social media memberships, prosecuting terrorist enablers, cutting off their financial sources, belittling their dominance and counter messaging through citizen awareness campaigns. If their propaganda is limited and their means of internet accessibility hindered, perhaps their social media connections will be fractured and defused.
Owatonna, MN-Censorship of social media and the internet will not be effective in combating terrorism for one simple reason: censorship is government-sanctioned oppression of its citizens. Oppression of any sort leads to resentment, which leads to resistance, which leads to revolution, which leads to guerilla warfare, which leads to terrorism after the guerilla war fades because of lack of money and weapons.

Censoring any form of communication can’t be done successfully. It’s like playing Whack-a-Mole. Censor the internet and people will use cell phones to communicate. Censor cell phones and people will devise codes that will encrypt their thoughts from the censors. Or creative people will invent new ways of communicating that circumvent censorship.

The biggest mistake any government can make is declaring war on anything but another sovereign nation. The wars on drugs, poverty, crime, pollution, terrorism, you name it, are wars against inanimate objects or concepts. How does an army kill an idea? Any one is free to think any idea they want to. They are also free to act on that idea and face whatever consequences might befall them.

How does an army kill inanimate objects? Drugs are merely specific chemicals combined in a specific way. In theory, anyone has the ability to manufacture drugs. Meth labs are perfect examples of that.

How does an army kill terrorism? In theory, my neighbor may buy into radical Islamic philosophy, secretly become a terrorist, invite all his neighbors to a block party, and shoot everyone in attendance with a couple of handguns before the police arrive to stop him. Up to that moment, he’d probably never done anything more radical than get a speeding ticket. The only “logical” way to stop terrorism is to deputize half the country and have them stand guard over the other half of the country for every minute of every day. But what sort of society would that produce? One that virtually no one would embrace.

Even if a government could censor every social media device, website, or communication mode now available in cyberspace, the sheer cost of policing hundreds of millions of people and their devices would be so prohibitive as to destroy the economy. Perhaps a better way to combat terrorism would be to stop antagonizing those countries and societies that currently produce terrorists so they will have no reason to terrorize their oppressors.
Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Trying to censor the Internet at this point is something akin to trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. You’re going to skewer a lot of little bits to the Sheetrock, but when you look down your shoes are going to be covered with millions of tiny bits of fruit-flavored gelatin living free and plotting revenge.

Social media has thus far proven to be only moderately effective at policing itself. You can get a picture of a nipple yanked off Facebook in minutes, but screeds posted by right-wing nuts calling for the president’s head on a spike or by religious nuts of any stripe calling for jihad (whatever they choose to call it) endure and go viral.

YouTube is one of the worst offenders, with entire channels held by radical elements and used to put forth everything from calls to mass violence to how-to videos on bomb-making and chemical weapons manufacture. Sure, they eventually get shut down, but more pop up immediately.

The only way to get a handle on the issue would be some sort of suspension or modification of the First Amendment, and I do not in any way advocate or support that.

What I do support is a dramatic increase in NSA or other agencies’ surveillance of the electronic world. I know it’s distasteful, and there is tremendous concern about misuse of the data collected, but that is a price we must pay. Censorship simply isn’t possible, with Wi-Fi points everywhere we turn, multiple options for anonymous browsing and shaky authentication protocols for access to social media networks.

Another option would be the Internet version of a bait car. To catch a thief, you set a thief, so let the same sort of squads used to bait child predators into revealing their twisted intentions to lure would-be mass shooters and other malcontents into the open. I’m by no means qualified to evaluate the legality of such an effort, but to my layman’s mind it should be an option.

In short, use the very openness and variety of the Internet to build a better mousetrap.
Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-According to an acquaintance, “the Internet is the Devil’s playground”. Why did he feel that way? I was quite perplexed if you should ask me, but I guess he was trying to say that there are so many harmful activities emerging from social media and the Internet, on a whole. For example, when I heard about the #CharlieCharlie challenge, I first saw it on social media. Indeed, it’s quite the play ground for news and suspicion. If the Government were to censor social media and the Internet, would they be able to effectively combat terrorism? I strongly believe that would be the case.

Since terrorists normally scatter throughout the country, they need an entity to communicate with each other. The Internet comes to play. By tapping into and screening what plays out online – within these chat groups, emails, and scheduled events – the Government would be able to identify an impending terrorist attack. They should see the Internet as their source of Intel. The fact of the matter is, there will always be loop holes or someone stupid enough to rant about their next move, maybe on Facebook or Twitter. Another aspect of censoring the Internet and social media is to make it difficult to get Intel into the hands of these terrorists. Whatever it is that could provide terrorists leverage, should be removed or banned in certain areas of the country. By censoring what goes up on the Internet, the Government has a better chance of combating all these attacks.

2 thoughts on “Would greater censorship of social media and the internet be effective in combating terrorism?

  1. It is an absorbing topic to think about, but the FBI says there were no social media postings by the San Bernardino shooters, none, zero, until a single one on the day of the event. All their communications about jihad were either private IMs or email. They didn’t want to draw attention to themselves or their bad intentions. There is no preventative action to apply to the social media areas of the Internet if someone wants to commit a crime, and they don’t talk about it in any public forum. And we don’y have either the technological capacity or the legal permission to pre-monitor all forms of private communication to check for potential danger.

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