New Gov’t Anti-Terror Initiative: Online Trolling

A member of the U.S. State Department has begun a new anti-terror initiative that is unlike others taken on by the U.S. government. It’s name: “Viral Peace.”

What’s the plan? Wired explains that instead of engaging in traditional warfare, this initiative is going to try to “annoy, frustrate and humiliate denizens of online extremist forums.”

Wired reports the program has already begun and was launched by Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology advisor with the State Department. In an interview with Wired, Amanullah said the goal is to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.”

Jarret Brachman, who studies online jihadism, thinks the tactic could work as those on the forums are often used by “massive narcissists [who] need constant ego boosts.” If you can get rid of the ”momentum, the anger and the virulence“ on such forums by balancing it with counterterror ”trolling,” some of the most verbose participants could dwindle off.

Viral Peace is still in its fledgling stages though — it doesn’t even have an official strategic plan yet. There’s also the fact that many of these contrary posts on forums could be taken down by administrators, as Will McCants, formerly with the State Department and now with the CNA think tank, told Wired.

McCants said the strategy could work if it targeted forums where terrorists were trying to recruit members.

Read more here.

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