Trolling Al Qaeda

The United States appears to have a new counterterrorism strategy built especially for the online age: troll extremist sites and forums.

Via Wired:

The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage…

…In an interview at a Washington coffee shop near his State Department office, Amanullah explains that online extremists have “an energy, they’ve got a vitality that frankly attracts some of these at-risk people,” Amanullah says. “It appeals to macho, it appeals to people’s rebellious nature, it appeals to people who feel downtrodden.” Creating a comparable passion on the other side is difficult. But it’s easier if the average online would-be jihadi has his mystique challenged through the trial by fire that is online ridicule…

…But all that is several steps ahead of Viral Peace at the moment. Viral Peace doesn’t have a strategy yet. And to hear Amanullah and his colleagues tell it, the State Department won’t be the ones who come up with one. It’s better, they argue, to let Muslims in various foreign countries figure out which message boards to troll and how to properly troll them. Americans won’t know, say, the Tagalog-language Internet better than Filipinos; and as outsiders, they won’t have the credibility necessary to actually make an impact. The best the State Department can do is train good trolls — which Amanullah began to do this spring.

Wired, News US Counterterrorism Strategy: Trolling.

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