Wednesday December 09, 2015

Obama appeals to Silicon Valley to help prevent terrorist attacks

President Barack Obama has called on Silicon Valley to help confront militant groups using social media and electronic communication to plan violent attacks.

President Barack Obama has called on Silicon Valley to help confront militant groups using social media and electronic communication to plan violent attacks. (Reuters/Saul Loeb/Pool )

Listen 24:33
"We will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every aspect of American power. I will urge high tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorist leaders to use technology to escape from justice." - U.S. President Barack Obama

In his Oval Office address on Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to call on all America's might — from the military, to Silicon Valley— in a re-doubled effort to combat extremism. It was a message designed to reassure a jittery nation in the wake of attacks in Paris and California.

But in the era of Edward Snowden and Wikileaks, any call for greater cooperation between law enforcement authorities and social media companies is bound to raise important concerns.

So today we're asking just what a new Silicon-to-Pentagon type relationship might look like, and whether it's likely to protect Americans from further attacks, or further erode Americans' privacy. 

J.M. Berger tracks how extremists of various stripes interact online. He is a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution where he studies the use of social media by extremists. J.M. Berger is also the co-author of "ISIS: The State of Terror."

Of course, civil liberties are at the heart of concerns about any new relationship between U.S. law enforcement and technology firms. Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist who specializes in issues of civil liberties and national security. She's also a fellow at X-Lab, an NGO looking at technology, law and policy. Marcy Wheeler was in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Shahed Amanullah believes that the tech sector does have a big role to play in combating extremism, but not necessarily in the ways we've been hearing about so far. Shahed Amanullah is a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and was a senior advisor for technology to both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. He now runs a company called Affinis Labs, a start-up accelerator fur businesses that serve a global Muslim population.
 

This segment was produced by The Current's Naheed Mustafa and Sujata Berry.