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.
CEP U.S. Congressional Testimony
CEP’s CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace has testified before U.S. congressional committees on several occasions where he called on social media companies, especially Twitter, to combat online radicalization, recruitment, and incitement to violence.
Testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, January 27, 2015 “The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda: The Paris Attacks and Social Media”
For the full testimony, click here.
Testimony before the National Security Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, October 28, 2015 “Radicalization: Social Media and the Rise of Terrorism”
For the full full testimony, click here.
For the full video, click here.
CEP's Digital Disruption in the News
A technological solution, at least to that last problem, may lie 2,600 miles east of Silicon Valley, in a computer-science laboratory at Dartmouth College. Prof. Hany Farid, chairman of the department, creates algorithms that can sweep digital...
A group that monitors extremist activity on Wednesday called for the parent company of WordPress.com to shut down websites the group says are used by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates to publicize ‘vile’ and violent acts, including videos of...
“Fortunately, Farid is thinking about some of society’s most menacing issues.“Hany is creative, unrelenting and above all, a problem-solver,” said Mark Wallace, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and current CEO of the Counter Extremism...
“In collaboration with the Counter Extremism Project, Farid has expanded the technology to include video and audio, which he says are major sources of extremist messaging. But the tool is encountering a hitch: Tech companies have been slow to sign on...
By Dr. Hany Farid, professor and chair of the Computer Science Department at Dartmouth College and a senior adviser at the Counter Extremism Project. "Online platforms today are being used in deplorably diverse ways: recruiting and radicalizing...
Some critics have also questioned whether the program’s leaders would ever be able to produce quantifiable results, something that’s ‘difficult, given what they are trying to do,’ said Tara Maller, a former CIA military analyst and senior policy...
On Nov. 13, 2015, Beatriz’s daughter, Nohemi, was killed in the Paris terror attacks by an Islamic State cell operating out of Brussels. On March 22, 2016, Cameron’s husband, Alexander, and her sister-in-law, Sascha, were murdered at the Brussels...
HBO’s VICE News Tonight program detailed the hashing technology that CEP developed with Dartmouth College Computer Science Professor Dr. Hany Farid, which is capable of detecting and removing extremist images, video, and audio content from Internet...
Just one day before President Barack Obama touted efforts to undermine the online reach of jihadist groups four tech giants — Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Google’s YouTube — announced that they will collaborate on a database of manually tagged...
Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube, which is owned by Google, have announced they are going to work together to identify extremist content. Hany Farid helped to build that technology. He's a computer scientist at Dartmouth and an advisor to the...