State Department Proposes "Trolling" Web-Based Islamic Extremists

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State Department Proposes "Trolling" Web-Based Islamic Extremists

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The Viral Peace program is out to make the internet uninhabitable for Islamic extremists.

In years gone by, Islamic extremists and would-be terrorists would communicate with one another using tangible means: they'd exchange cassette or video tapes of their leaders' rousing speeches, for example, or hoard secret pamphlets laced with just the right kind of rhetoric. Back then, the best way to nip their violent dreams in the bud was to seize their contraband; but now that terrorists are increasingly communicating and recruiting using the internet, what can we do to turn them away from the not-so-straight path of extremism? According to the State Department, the solution might be to prod them into moderate thinking by politely trolling their internet spaces.

Led by Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology advisor to the State Department, the Viral Peace nicely-troll-an-extremist program will aim to disrupt the virtual spaces most frequently occupied by would-be terrorists and Islamic extremists. Amanullah wants to train young Muslims from across the Islamic world to use "logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them" on forums, Facebook, and Twitter.

"[Jihadis have] an energy, they've got a vitality that frankly attracts some of these at-risk people," said Amanullah. "It appeals to macho, it appeals to people's rebellious nature, it appeals to people who feel downtrodden." If the Viral Peace internet hunters can rebuff the extremists' arguments using both political logic and the words of the Holy Qu'ran (especially those parts about how there's seriously no excuse for murdering a non-combatant who hasn't actually done anything to you), they could make the extremists' ideas seem less appealing to vulnerable targets, at the same time as perhaps re-aligning the views of the extremists themselves.

"I come from Silicon Valley, from the start-up environment," added Amanullah. "I want to prove you can do small, inexpensive, high-impact projects that don't just talk about the problem but solve the problem. And solve it the right way: not with the government's heavy hand but by empowering local people to do what they already know to do but don't know how."

According to online jihad specialist Jarret Brachmann, the idea could genuinely work. According to him, forum-based extremists "keep the momentum, the anger and the virulence going in forums, and they have a disproportionate impact...so if you can get rid of them, it'll pay dividends."

Though the Viral Peace internet-scourers will likely face trouble in the form of tetchy admins and quick removal from highly conservative sites, they could find themselves welcomed in more moderate spaces, according to specialists on the topic.

When (and if) it lifts off, Viral Peace will very much be in the hands of the young Muslims who wish to participate, rather than the State Department itself. While the Department will provide advice on strategy, it's up to the Viral Peace activists themselves to decide how best to approach the problem in their own countries. Last month saw the first raft of Viral Peace meetings across nations including Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, where the activists identified the central problems behind extremism in their countries (with poverty, injustice, and inequality identified as the main issues) before going over materials designed to help train them in how to diffuse extremist anger online.

For the moment, the young people involved in Viral Peace are keeping in touch via their Facebook page and Twitter account. It'll be interesting to see how their project, with advice from techies at the State Department, will develop; can directed, organized and educated trolling really be used as an effective tool against extremism? Here's to hoping so.

Source: Wired

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This entire thing is almost too dumb for public consumption. I'm afraid people will read this and die from an overload of stupid.

Where do i sign up?

bafrali:
Where do i sign up?

Me TOO! As that one poem said "There is no greater honor than troll for one's country. lolz."

I've heard stupid and moronic ideas in my time, guess what is this one?

Lowering to their level and giving them ammunition... Seems legit...

Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology advisor to the State Department, the Viral Peace nicely-troll-an-extremist program will aim to disrupt the virtual spaces most frequently occupied by would-be terrorists and Islamic extremists. Amanullah wants to train young Muslims from across the Islamic world to use "logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them" on forums, Facebook, and Twitter.

Since when did employing logic, humor, satire [and] religious arguments undermine and demoralize anyone? What an asshole.

This guy sounds like a guerrilla marketeer used to sending in waves of poorly educated phone whores into forums to diffuse trash like... I dunno... Bioware incompetence. Secondly this particular tactic is as sound as wearing hot pink camo as far as stratagem. Why in the hell would someone advertise the fact that they were about to initiate this program in public circles? It's only a ruse as long as no one talks about it.

Though the Viral Peace internet-scourers will likely face trouble in the form of tetchy admins and quick removal from highly conservative sites, they could find themselves welcomed in more moderate spaces, according to specialists on the topic.

Don't have to be a specialist to know that the best way to keep a secret is to keep it a secret.

Just another waste of time and resources on the war on error'. Nice job.

They should recruit Boxxy! Boxxy vs Islamic Extremists . . . . I'd pay to watch that.

Why Islamic extremists specifically and not just extremists in general?

Why dont they just ask 4chan to troll the Islamic radicals?

bafrali:
Where do i sign up?

Punch You:

Me TOO! As that one poem said "There is no greater honor than troll for one's country. lolz."

I could pun them to death: Allah atcha boi!

Clearing the Eye:
This entire thing is almost too dumb for public consumption. I'm afraid people will read this and die from an overload of stupid.

And yet it probably is one of the better anti-terrorism ideas out there. Which is extremely depressing - or downright hilarious, depending on your sense of humour.

WanderingFool:
Why dont they just ask 4chan to troll the Islamic radicals?

Don't know about you, but I find 4chan trolling an excellent argument as to why you should strap c4 to your chest, and detonate.

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Am I the only one that sees the people hired to do this kind of stuff tracked down and killed? Especially if it's like facebook. Hopefully they give them all fake profile pictures... or just group profile pictures- Those things are annoying as fuck. Are you so ugly that you need to blend with 15 other faces to make yourself look normal?

Allthingsspectacular:
Why Islamic extremists specifically and not just extremists in general?

Actually that is a very good point. But i would assume that they are short on man-power

Allthingsspectacular:
Why Islamic extremists specifically and not just extremists in general?

Because Muslim is a dirty word now. While I support treating the beliefs of the religious as nothing short of laughable, the racism and propaganda that's sprung up since the U.S. got bitten by the dog it had been kicking since the 80's is pretty sickening.

Kargathia:

Clearing the Eye:
This entire thing is almost too dumb for public consumption. I'm afraid people will read this and die from an overload of stupid.

And yet it probably is one of the better anti-terrorism ideas out there. Which is extremely depressing - or downright hilarious, depending on your sense of humour.

WanderingFool:
Why dont they just ask 4chan to troll the Islamic radicals?

Don't know about you, but I find 4chan trolling an excellent argument as to why you should strap c4 to your chest, and detonate.

I went to 4chan once. Almost blew up a local hospital. Shit does things to you, man. Bad things.... I've seen... stuff... *quietly sobs*

What's with all the hate? This is one of the best anti-terrorism ideas that I've heard. Although they probably shouldn't have called it "trolling", since that's not what they're doing... more like infiltration.

Xanthious:
They should recruit Boxxy! Boxxy vs Islamic Extremists . . . . I'd pay to watch that.

She's so very hot. In a strange way. A cute, strange way. A cute, strange, crazy meth addict kind of way.

They can recruit 12 year olds from XBox Live.

Clearing the Eye:

Allthingsspectacular:
Why Islamic extremists specifically and not just extremists in general?

Because Muslim is a dirty word now. While I support treating the beliefs of the religious as nothing short of laughable, the racism and propaganda that's sprung up since the U.S. got bitten by the dog it had been kicking since the 80's is pretty sickening.

While I agree that the treatment of Muslims in the media has been awful for past few decades, I'd argue that the government is going after Islamic terrorism with this specifically for two reasons: The first being that the ideology behind anti-Western Islamic terrorism has the potential to be genuinely dangerous at the moment, and the second being that the world is full of young, tech-savvy Muslims who're keen to help put a stop to it. Helping them to mobilize is cost-effective and relatively straightfoward.

This looks like a job for Trollestia.
image

I'm not sure why people are saying this is a bad idea. One of the best ways to combat extremism has always been to use satire to show just how ridiculous and well...extreme such views are.

lets see how much this is all costing us, then decide if its worth a try or too expensive to make sense, 14 trillion in debt folk, when you can tax all your citizens 100% for the next 10 years or so and not pay you debt, then u really need to watch your spending :P.

there are whole host of reasons why extremeists are wrong, and your average muslim is a wonderful person, it could work, but whats the bill anyway?

I saw the title of the article and, I don't know why, but this image popped into my head of a suicide bomber running into a marketplace shouting in Arabic when suddenly a American turns to him and says "you mad bro?"

The headline made me think it was a stupid move, as did the opening paragraphs, but after reading the whole thing I have to admit there is some possibility for this to work.

And I also have to admit that of the ways the US tries to combat terrorism, this really probably is one of the most effective, since so much of what's being done now accomplishes nothing or worse.

That said, the return on investment when arguing on forums is very low. It's above zero when done correctly, but not by much.

Still a better anti-terrorist measure than Guantanamo...

Hevva:

Clearing the Eye:

Allthingsspectacular:
Why Islamic extremists specifically and not just extremists in general?

Because Muslim is a dirty word now. While I support treating the beliefs of the religious as nothing short of laughable, the racism and propaganda that's sprung up since the U.S. got bitten by the dog it had been kicking since the 80's is pretty sickening.

While I agree that the treatment of Muslims in the media has been awful for past few decades, I'd argue that the government is going after Islamic terrorism with this specifically for two reasons: The first being that the ideology behind anti-Western Islamic terrorism has the potential to be genuinely dangerous at the moment, and the second being that the world is full of young, tech-savvy Muslims who're keen to help put a stop to it. Helping them to mobilize is cost-effective and relatively straightfoward.

In reality, I see this doing nothing positive at all. Extremist groups, the kind actually serious enough to be dangerous, won't be affected by this. In fact, it's actually kind of hilarious (in a slightly sad way) that this is happening, that someone really thought this would be the way to go. Terrorist groups of any stripe, are terrorists because they cause fear, suffering and death. This isn't something you whip together some fresh faces teens to have a crack at. This isn't a pet project to bring people together and make a difference. We're talking about groups setting out to destroy and murder.

What this whole thing will do is reinforce and remind the public of the propaganda the media and government spew out on a daily basis. "Look, guys. We're stopping them damn Muslims!" Hell, just the word Muslim means terrorist now. It conjurers up images of savages and tribal men beating women and blowing up buildings. Because that's all we see and that's all they want us to see--it's easier to allow and embrace the killing of faceless monsters than real people. Instead of educating the public and giving them the facts--the correct way to inspire change--we've got another group using Islam and extremist in their mission statement as if the two are one word.

Their motives are pure enough and I've little doubt there is anything but good intentions driving the campaign. Could well be a bunch of people wanting to make a difference and help put a stop to people getting hurt. But this method won't stop anything and it will continue to feed the hype machine. The cheesy sheen so thick the logo'd give you diabetes if you stared at it too long.

mfeff:
Since when did employing logic, humor, satire [and] religious arguments undermine and demoralize anyone? What an asshole.

Not undermining and demoralizing the people exposed to it, genius; to do so to the extremists, by showing their potential recruits, and their existing ones, there may be another way.

Not saying it'd work, or that it's the right way to do it, just that you're reading it wrong.

That said, this isn't "trolling" in the slightest. I realize you want people to read your news by using the hip slang of the now to attract the drooling dullards who see any of the aforementioned slang and come running to tout it as if it were a freaking deity, but it's a hell of a stretch to refer to this by it regardless.

I've been drawing pictures of the prophet for over three years now! (one pic a year...)

them US conter-terrorist trolls need to get with the program!

Please be real. I want to see a bunch of the first 50 somethings they train (who probably have only a passing understanding of the internet) try to troll online.

Well, good job advertising your intentions to the world before you even start, guys! Even /b/ is smart enough to repeatedly remind people to not talk about /b/.

Clearing the Eye:

Hevva:

Clearing the Eye:
Because Muslim is a dirty word now. While I support treating the beliefs of the religious as nothing short of laughable, the racism and propaganda that's sprung up since the U.S. got bitten by the dog it had been kicking since the 80's is pretty sickening.

While I agree that the treatment of Muslims in the media has been awful for past few decades, I'd argue that the government is going after Islamic terrorism with this specifically for two reasons: The first being that the ideology behind anti-Western Islamic terrorism has the potential to be genuinely dangerous at the moment, and the second being that the world is full of young, tech-savvy Muslims who're keen to help put a stop to it. Helping them to mobilize is cost-effective and relatively straightfoward.

In reality, I see this doing nothing positive at all. Extremist groups, the kind actually serious enough to be dangerous, won't be affected by this. In fact, it's actually kind of hilarious (in a slightly sad way) that this is happening, that someone really thought this would be the way to go. Terrorist groups of any stripe, are terrorists because they cause fear, suffering and death. This isn't something you whip together some fresh faces teens to have a crack at. This isn't a pet project to bring people together and make a difference. We're talking about groups setting out to destroy and murder.

What this whole thing will do is reinforce and remind the public of the propaganda the media and government spew out on a daily basis. "Look, guys. We're stopping them damn Muslims!" Hell, just the word Muslim means terrorist now. It conjurers up images of savages and tribal men beating women and blowing up buildings. Because that's all we see and that's all they want us to see--it's easier to allow and embrace the killing of faceless monsters than real people. Instead of educating the public and giving them the facts--the correct way to inspire change--we've got another group using Islam and extremist in their mission statement as if the two are one word.

Their motives are pure enough and I've little doubt there is anything but good intentions driving the campaign. Could well be a bunch of people wanting to make a difference and help put a stop to people getting hurt. But this method won't stop anything and it will continue to feed the hype machine. The cheesy sheen so thick the logo'd give you diabetes if you stared at it too long.

But who is the terrorist before they're a terrorist? They're someone who's angry, for whatever reason. It takes time and convincing to turn a regular person into someone who thinks blowing other humans up is a good idea. While I agree with most of what you're saying, I think it's important to note that diluting the rhetoric used by Islamic extremist to recruit new cell-members could have a positive impact in the long run. Terrorist groups are setting out to murder and destroy, yes, and they're increasingly recruiting online. It's better to try and nip the process in the bud using information than to do nothing, no?

Additionally, I don't think this group interchanges the words "Islam" and "extremist" like so many others we see, mostly because its members are Muslims. Radical (or extreme) Islam is the path that leads most directly to terrorism; personally, I trust this bunch to know the difference.

But still, it's early days. Hopefully it turns out well.

I wouldn't be surprised if extremists started trolling our forums in protest. This is going to get interesting.

Allthingsspectacular:
Why Islamic extremists specifically and not just extremists in general?

The Taoist hardliners haven't come out of their mountain hermitage for the last 40 years, the Christian extremists are too busy running for president, and the Buddhists are still sleeping off the effects of peace, love, and understanding.

Lately the Islamic ones have been hogging all the explode-y goodness, which is why they get all the attention.

yes, pissing off people who willingly blow themselves and others up in your face is a really good idea....

Will it be more than adding the words "Fail" to every extremist comment? lol

*before reading article* THIS IS A GREAT IDEA.
*after reading article* Wait... this /is/ a great idea...
Course, chances are the extremists will shortly learn about moderation on their forums and that could throw a wrench in the plans.

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