January 31, 2011

United Nations Turns to Web to Fight Terrorism

Several things can evoke the pain associated with acts of terrorism. A picture splattered across page one of a newspaper of a husband and wife cradling their baby following a bomb; a movie which shows the devastation following an army invasion.

But, recently, the United Nations has found a new medium to help the message resonate – the Internet.

Last week, counterterrorist officials from more than 30 countries met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at a United Nations-sponsored workshop to discuss how the World Wide Web can be used to denounce acts of violence, according to a New York Times article published Sunday.

“The terrorist message, for all its deviancy and destructiveness, has gone unchallenged for too long,” Richard Barrett, a conference organizer who heads a United Nations office that monitors sanctions on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, said in the article.

As terrorists plot to harm various sects of the world, United Nations representatives are planning an attack of their own, one in which the Internet is their battleground. Working with international organizations as well as with private and nonprofit groups, several governments are working to “undermine the appeal of terrorists, expose their lack of legitimacy and attack the credibility of their ideology and online messengers.”

The Internet, according to these representatives, can serve as a forum to fight terrorism without the artillery and machine weapons.

And the best soldiers, according to the Times article, are those that previously performed acts of violence and are now speaking out about why their behavior was wrong. From “extremists who have renounced their pasts to Pakistani cricket stars who presumably have wide appeal among the youth solicited by both sides,” these messengers are the ones who can properly deliver the message.

In the wake of September 11, government officials have been working tirelessly to find ways to combat acts of terrorism. Some state that the best offense is a collaboration of human intelligence.  The argument has been made that by working with other groups and sharing information, intelligence can be used to thwart terrorist plans.

The Obama administration has recently been advocating for government officials to be able more easily monitor into Internet and e-mail communications. Government officials have contended that law enforcement needs to make it more possible to tap into encrypted e-mails and perform phone taps when the conversation concerns terrorism or public safety issues. The issue has been met with both criticism and skepticism.

While calling for possible wiretaps on all communications and the entire Web might be a bit extremist, for lack of a better word, using the Internet as a secret weapon to fight terrorism, as suggested at the United Nations conference, might be a more diplomatic approach.

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Carrie Schmelkin is a Web Editor for TMCnet. Previously, she worked as Assistant Editor at the New Canaan Advertiser, a 102-year-old weekly newspaper, covering news and enhancing the publication’s social media initiaitives. Carrie holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in English from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin




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