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If You Can’t Beat ISIS Online, Ban ‘Em

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
30th November 2017 - Quoted by Eli Lake - Bloomberg

For much of the Obama presidency, the U.S. State Department waged a narrative war against the world's jihadists. Through a small office inside Foggy Bottom known as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, a team of experts deployed counter-messages to al Qaeda and later the Islamic State.

As 2017 comes to a close, many fighting the online war for the hearts and minds of would-be terrorists are rethinking their strategy. Hearts and minds, of course, still matter. But the efforts of Western governments, academics and the private sector to craft clickable content and stories to discredit terrorists are often clumsy and slow. It's also difficult to measure just how effective these campaigns really are.

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Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a consultant on Alphabet's Redirect project, told me that this approach has promise. But he also added that it's important to develop a better way of measuring what online counter-narratives actually work. "You cannot measure the impact of a video by how many people are watching it," he said. "A video with lots of views isn't necessarily hitting the right audience. A video that doesn't get many views could be hitting the right audience."

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Tags

islamic-state, sunni-jihadism