Aus­tralian talks tackle ji­hadists’ use of so­cial me­dia


The Is­lamic State group has “global am­bi­tions” and more must be done to tackle its use of so­cial me­dia for re­cruit­ment, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of gov­ern­ments and tech­nol­ogy gi­ants heard in Australia Thurs­day.

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott told the re­gional ex­trem­ism con­fer­ence it was vi­tal to find ways to stymie the ide­ol­ogy of ex­trem­ists who are drawing thou­sands of for­eign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

“You can’t ne­go­ti­ate with an en­tity like this, you can only fight it,” he said of Is­lamic State, to an au­di­ence in­clud­ing high-level of­fi­cials from 30 na­tions, as well as Face­book, Twit­ter and Google.

“This is not ter­ror­ism for a lo­cal griev­ance, this is ter­ror­ism with global am­bi­tions,” Ab­bott said.

“The only re­ally ef­fec­tive de­fense against ter­ror­ism is per­suad­ing peo­ple that it’s point­less.

“We need ide­al­is­tic young peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate that join­ing this death cult (IS) is an ut­terly mis­guided and wrong-headed way to ex­press their de­sire to sac­ri­fice. How this is best done is, of course, the work of this con­fer­ence.”

The two-day meet­ing comes as U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ap­proved the de­ploy­ment of 450 more mil­i­tary train­ers to Iraq, join­ing an al­ready 3,100-strong mission in the na­tion, in a cau­tious bid to re­verse gains by IS.

The new con­tin­gent will fo­cus on ef­forts to wrest back con­trol of pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Ra­madi af­ter IS, which al­ready con­trols large swathes of Iraq and Syria, seized the pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni city near Bagh­dad in May.

The Syd­ney gath­er­ing fol­lows a sim­i­lar meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton in Fe­bru­ary where Obama said na­tions had to tackle the root causes driv­ing re­cruit­ment to such groups.

But the three days of talks did not lead to any con­crete plans of mea­sures to be taken.

Top­ics be­ing dis­cussed in Australia in­clude work­ing with so­cial me­dia, in­dus­try and civil so­ci­ety groups, com­bat­ing ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda and the in­volve­ment of women and fam­i­lies in any mea­sures.

Role of So­cial Me­dia

“Ter­ror­ists have ex­ploited so­cial me­dia to de­velop a brand and to flood their tar­get au­di­ence with pro­pa­ganda that casts lo­cal con­flicts to global au­di­ences, drawing in for­eign fighters from ev­ery cor­ner of the globe,” Aus­tralian At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Ge­orge Bran­dis said in open­ing re­marks.

“So over the next two days we will seek to deepen our shared un­der­stand­ing of the driv­ers that are push­ing and pulling our cit­i­zens to­wards ex­trem­ist ide­olo­gies.”

He ear­lier told Chan­nel Nine tele­vi­sion that Google, Face­book and Twit­ter’s at­ten­dance showed their com­mit­ment in ad­dress­ing on­line re­cruit­ment.

“You are quite right when you say that on­line re­cruit­ment is one of the most rapidly emerg­ing and most danger­ous as­pects of ter­ror­ist re­cruit­ment. No doubt at all it is aimed at the young,” he said.

“This has been to a large ex­tent an un­governed space in the past. In­creas­ingly less so, by the way.

“I want to stress that Google, Face­book, and Twit­ter have been very co­op­er­a­tive with gov­ern­ments try­ing to pro­tect their pop­u­la­tions from the use of on­line and so­cial me­dia as a re­cruit­ment tool.”

Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop said fam­i­lies and friends of those who be­come rad­i­cal­ized had to be em­pow­ered to help counter the ex­trem­ists’ pro­pa­ganda tac­tics.

“Daesh adopts many of the same tac­tics as on­line sex­ual preda­tors, groom­ing their young tar­gets to not re­veal their dis­cus­sions or their chang­ing be­liefs to par­ents or friends,” she said, us­ing an al­ter­na­tive name for IS.

“Some­one from the same back­ground, faith or so­cioe­co­nomic sit­u­a­tion lis­ten­ing to them is best placed to un­der­stand their mo­ti­va­tions and to ex­plain where they’re be­ing mis­led or ma­nip­u­lated.”


Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott de­liv­ers his key notes at the Re­gional Coun­ter­ing Vi­o­lent Ex­trem­ism Sum­mit in Syd­ney on Thurs­day, June 11.

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