White House summit focuses on social media war

US administration unclear on some of its attempts to counter ISIL's ability to recruit fighters through social media.


    I love covering summits. They are just so visual and it usually leads to great story telling.

    Okay, it doesn't.

    In this case though, the last three days have been an important story to cover.

    The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism just wrapped up in Washington DC.

    More than 60 countries were represented at the State Department on Thursday.

    Much of the focus was on beating back the attempt by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group to get recruits through social media.

    The president made this announcement: "... The United States is joining, for example, with the UAE to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and civil society and community leaders to counter terrorist propaganda."

    What does that mean? What might this "hub" do?

    Strangely, the State Department spokesperson could not say. Jen Psaki said they were talking with allies and they would have more details when they become available. That usually doesn't happen.

    Like clockwork

    The president makes an announcement and then it's like clockwork, a fact sheet shows up in my inbox.

    What is going on?

    They could be disorganised. I have to admit, the logistics for the summit have been all over the place and very last minute.

    US programme seeks to fight ISIL on social media

    The other possibility is that the president is speaking to two audiences.

    I spoke with Robert Grenier, a former CIA boss and he had this theory.

    Domestically, he wants to send the message that the US is doing everything it can to combat ISIL.

    When it comes to sending that message to an international audience, especially in the Middle East, President Barack Obama may realize that attaching the "Made in the USA" label to any effort can actually hurt the stated goal.

    The president seemed to realise that. On day two of the summit, he urged Muslim leaders to get hip.

    He offered this advice: "And by the way, [to] the older people here, as wise and respected as you may be, your stuff is often boring - compared to what [ISIL is] doing. You're not connected. And as a consequence, you are not connecting."

    He wants others to be tech savvy and that is where the irony comes in. At the start of the summit at the State Department, they couldn't get the microphones to work for an extended period of time. It was pretty shocking.

    Here you have these foreign ministers reading their prepared text and then it was like watching a silent movie. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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