News & Politics

What Could Go Wrong? White House to Partner With Big Business to Combat 'Online Radicalization'

The White House is looking for ways to counter online speech that is “radical” and tied to terrorism.

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Since its inception, the war on terror has found numerous way to seep into many aspects of American life, and the latest is the Internet. As FireDogLake’s DSWright points out, the White House is looking for ways to counter online speech that is “radical” and tied to terrorism.

A White House statement released earlier this month states that “the Federal Government is committed to empowering members of the public to protect themselves against the full range of online threats, including online radicalization to violence.” As DSWright notes, what the government is saying is that “the internet is gaining in power and we have not figured out a way to dominate it yet.” And that’s scaring the government.

The groups involved in “online radicalization to violence” include, of course, Al-Qaeda and white supremacist groups. But it’s not a stretch of the imagination to realize that trying to regulate the speech of extremists can bleed into regulating the speech of plain old law-abiding dissidents.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the White House plan to counter “online radicalization” is it’s plan to work with “industry” to do so. “The Federal Government will collaborate with industry to explore how we might counter online violent extremism while protecting lawful Internet use and the civil liberties and privacy of individual users,” according to the White House. “Many companies have developed voluntary measures to promote Internet safety (such as fraud warnings, identity protection, and Internet safety tips), and we look forward to hearing their views about how we might apply similar measures to counter online radicalization to violence.”

As DSWright writes, this is nothing to welcome. “Big Government and Big Business working together, all to help us. This marriage of state and corporate power to regulate the internet sounds great doesn’t it?...Allowing the government to work with industry to develop “countermeasures” to “radical” speech is a great way to protect all our freedom. What could go wrong?”

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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