CEP is determined to end extremists’ misuse of social media platforms to spread terrorist propaganda, radicalize and recruit new members, and incite others to violence. CEP has launched a variety of initiatives to highlight the dangers of online extremist activities to counter this threat.
Social Media Company Campaigns
CEP was the first nongovernmental organization to formally call on social media companies, in particular Twitter, to take immediate action to stop extremists from weaponizing their networks.
CEP’s primary focus has been on Twitter due to its ‘gateway’ function into extremists’ wider social media networks. Vulnerable individuals are initially exposed to extremist content and extremist recruiters on Twitter’s easily accessible platform. Recruits are then invited to interact with jihadists on other message boards and private messaging platforms.
Anwar al-Awlaki Online
CEP is also concerned about the presence of radical American cleric and propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki’s content on social media, particularly YouTube, and his influence on homegrown extremists.
Speaking to the New York Times on December 18, 2015, CEP CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace expressed concern that al-Awlaki’s lectures and extremist videos have “inspired countless plots and attacks.” Enrique Marquez Jr. and Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino massacre that killed 14, spent hours listening to al-Awlaki’s lectures and poring over directions on making explosives in the AQAP magazine al-Awlaki helped create, Inspire, according to the criminal complaint against Marquez. Al-Awlaki was directly in contact with Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan (2009) and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (2009). Al-Awlaki inspired Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad (2010) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of the Boston Marathon bombings (2013).
There is a clear, direct link between al-Awlaki’s teachings and terror. Social media companies, especially YouTube, must take action to permanently remove all of al-Awlaki’s videos.
To view the profile of al-Awlaki on CEP’s Global Extremist Registry, click here.
To view Anwar al-Awlaki’s Ties to Extremists, click here.
To view the USA Today op-ed click here.
To view the Fox News op-ed, click here.
Fast Facts: Anwar al-Awlaki on YouTube
“Anwar al-Awlaki jihad” yielded 6,510 search results as of September 28, 2016.
“Anwar al-Awlaki” yielded 61,900 search results as of December 18, 2015, and then yielded 68,200 results as of September 28, 2016.
On the first page of hits based on a simple search for “Anwar al-Awlaki” reveals “Anwar al-Awlaki - Battle of The Hearts and Minds” (video), an hour-long polemic demonizing the United States.
YouTube’s features like search, autofill, and recommendations has served to expose users to al-Awlaki and his extremist content.
In October 2014, CEP launched #CEPDigitalDisruption to identify, expose, and report the profiles and accounts of extremists on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Ask.fm, and other social media networks. CEP monitors profiles in multiple languages, including English, Arabic, French, Italian, German, and Turkish.
Sign our petition to join CEP President Fran Townsend and CEP CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace as well as the CEP community in holding Twitter accountable.Sign the Petition
CEP has proposed five specific steps for social media companies like Twitter to undertake:
Trusted Reporting Status:
Social media companies should grant trusted reporting status to government and groups like CEP to swiftly identify and ensure the expeditious removal of extremists online.
The reporting process online is long and cumbersome. A more accessible reporting protocol should be added for users to report suspected extremist activity.
Clear, Public Policy on Extremism:
America’s leading tech companies should adopt a policy statement that extremist activities will not be tolerated.
When one of the most influential and pro-ISIS Twitter accounts, ShamiWitness, was publicly revealed to be an Indian businessman it shook the cyber-jihadi network. He immediately stopped his online jihad. Twitter and other social media companies should reveal detailed information – including the names of the most egregious cyber-jihadis. The most egregious cyber-jihadis do not deserve an anonymous platform to from which to spew hate and incite terror and murder.
Proactive Content Monitoring:
At this time, many social media sites only monitor and remove content that has been reported to them. Instead, each should spearhead internal efforts to find content and remove it without relying on the public to police the platform for them.