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The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is a nonprofit non-governmental organization that combats extremist groups "by pressuring financial support networks, countering the narrative of extremists and their online recruitment, and advocating for strong laws, policies and regulations."[1]

Counter Extremism Project
Counter Extremism Project Logo.png
FormationSeptember 22, 2014 (2014-09-22)
TypeNGO
Legal status501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
PurposeCombat extremist groups
CEO
Mark Wallace
President
Frances Townsend
Executive Director
David Ibsen
Websitewww.counterextremism.com

Contents

OverviewEdit

CEP was formally launched on September 22, 2014 by top former government officials, including former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend, former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Mark Wallace, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The mission of the organization is to fight global extremism, with an initial goal of disrupting the financing and online recruitment and propaganda of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[2] The group is modeled on United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group led by Wallace which has had success in contributing to the economic pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran.[3] Other prominent board members include Gary Samore, August Hanning, Dennis Ross, and Irwin Cotler.[4]

CEP is a 501[c)3 non-profit organization. It can accept tax-deductible contributions on a confidential basis. For security reasons, CEP generally declines to name its financial backers, with the exception of Thomas Kaplan, a billionaire investor who also supports United Against Nuclear Iran.[5]

As of September 2014, CEP had offices in New York, home to the United Nations, and Brussels, where the European Union headquarters many of its most important bodies.[5]

Digital Disruption CampaignEdit

CEP launched its "Digital Disruption Campaign" to remove accounts associated with ISIS from social media networks in order to deny them popular platforms to incite violence, spread their message, and recruit members. The campaign has particularly focused on Twitter, calling on the company to adopt new policies to prevent extremists such as ISIS from misusing their platform, as well as identifying ISIS accounts and alerting Twitter to remove them.[6][7][8][9][10]ISIS has made extensive use of social media, especially Twitter, to recruit fighters and distribute propaganda videos, including clips that show the beheading of American journalists and a British foreign aid official. The campaign has led to death threats such as beheading against CEP President Fran Townsend on Twitter from jihadist accounts.[11]

CEP started by collecting ISIS propaganda with an eye towards learning how they tailor their messaging to various audiences. CEP also had this material translated into English to make it easier for academics, reporters, and other researchers to study ISIS and its methods. CEP then crafted a counter narrative that brought attention to human rights abuses under ISIS, its use of extreme violence against women, children, and non-combatants.[2]

YouTube studyEdit

A study released by CEP in July of 2018 determined that while YouTube had made a great deal of progress towards removing extremist content, terrorists still had a large audience on the site. CEP determined that between March and June of 2018 ISIS members and supporters uploaded 1,348 videos to the site which received 163,391 views over the same period. 24% of those videos remained on YouTube for at least two hours. Many of these videos were shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites before YouTube could delete them. These videos were posted by 278 accounts. Roughly 60% of these accounts were allowed to remain active by YouTube despite having been used to upload extremist content that violated the site's terms of use. Hany Farid, a senior advisor to CEP, criticized YouTube. He stated: “We know these videos are being created for propaganda purposes to incite and encourage violence, and I find those videos dangerous in a very real way.”[12]

CEP searched YouTube using 185 keywords commonly associated with ISIS. These keywords included the Arabic terms for "crusader," "jihad," the names of ISIS-controlled geographic locations, media outlets, and propagandists. CEP created a software system that searched YouTube ever 20 minutes over the three-month life of the study. The system then used CEP's video indentification tool, eGLYPH, to compare the results to 229 known terrorist video clips. eGLYPH generates a unique signature called a "hash" for each video or section of a video. This in turn allows known videos to be identified even if they have been edited, copied, or otherwise altered.[12]

Global Youth Summit Against Violent ExtremismEdit

On September 28, 2015, CEP co-hosted the first Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism with the U.S. Department of State and Search for Common Ground at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.[13] The event "drew more than 80 youth leaders from 45 countries with the objective of developing outreach and social-media intervention initiatives that can be shared globally."[14] Senior U.S. government officials who addressed the attendees included U.S. Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, and Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall.[15] The summit also featured presentations from Facebook and Microsoft.[16][17] A panel of judges at the summit awarded $100,000 to youth activist programs it believed would have the greatest impact.[16]

NORexEdit

In June 2016, CEP unveiled a software tool for use by Internet and social media companies to "quickly find and eliminate extremist content used to spread and incite violence and attacks." CEP senior advisor Hany Farid, a computer scientist that specializes in the forensic analysis of digital images, developed the software. It functions similarly to PhotoDNA, a system that uses robust hashing technology Farid worked on developing with Microsoft, which is "now widely used by Internet companies to stop the spread of content showing sexual exploitation or pornography involving children."[18][19][20]

To operationalize this new technology to combat extremism, CEP proposed the creation of a National Office for Reporting Extremism (NORex), which would house a comprehensive database of extremist content and function similar to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. President Obama supported this initiative. Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, said, "We welcome the launch of initiatives such as the Counter Extremism Project’s National Office for Reporting Extremism that enables companies to address terrorist activity on their platforms and better respond to the threat posed by terrorists’ activities online."[21][22] Wallace stated that if this system were to be adopted by social media companies and the private sector, it "would go a long way to making sure that online extremism is no longer pervasive."[18]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "About". Counter Extremism Project. Archived from the original on 2015-02-06.
  2. ^ a b "Government Veterans to Take Fight to Extremists on Online Battleground". TIME. 22 September 2014. Archived from the original on 31 December 2014.
  3. ^ "New group plans to spotlight secret funding for Islamic State militants". The Washington Post. 20 September 2014. Archived from the original on 23 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Backers of anti-Iran group create mirror group against violent Islamists". JTA. 22 September 2014. Archived from the original on 7 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b Heilman, Uriel (22 September 2014). "Backers of anti-Iran group create mirror group against violent Islamists". Arizona Jewish Post. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Digital Disruption Campaign". Counter Extremism Project. Archived from the original on 2015-02-14.
  7. ^ "Twitter pressed to confront terrorist abuse". The Washington Examiner. 6 February 2015. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Turns Out It's Pretty Hard To Shut Down Jihadi Twitter". BuzzFeed. 6 November 2014. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Terrorists on Twitter". Yahoo News. 16 November 2014. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  10. ^ "There Are No 'Terms of Service' In War". Mother Jones. 8 December 2014. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Extremists plot assassinations of former U.S. national security officials". WTOP. 6 December 2014. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015.
  12. ^ a b Greenemeier, Larry (24 July 2018). "Social Media's Stepped-Up Crackdown on Terrorists Still Falls Short". Scientific American. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  13. ^ "State Department to Co-Host Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism". U.S. State Department. September 25, 2015.
  14. ^ "UN leaders agree on how to defeat ISIS. Doing it is the hard part". Christian Science Monitor. September 29, 2015. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015.
  15. ^ "CEP Hosts Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism". Counter Extremism Project. October 6, 2015. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Steering Youth Away From Extremism Has $100,000 Prize at Summit". Bloomberg News. September 25, 2015. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016.
  17. ^ "Microsoft Corp. & Facebook to Lead Tech Discussion at Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism". Counter Extremism Project. September 25, 2015. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Software unveiled to tackle online extremism, violence". AFP. June 17, 2016. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016.
  19. ^ "A Tool to Delete Beheading Videos Before They Even Appear Online". The Atlantic. June 22, 2016. Archived from the original on February 18, 2017.
  20. ^ "Suppressing Extremist Speech: There's an Algorithm for That!". Foreign Policy. June 17, 2016. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016.
  21. ^ "There's a new tool to take down terrorism images online. But social-media companies are wary of it". The Washington Post. June 21, 2016. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016.
  22. ^ "How to Stop the Next Viral Jihadi Video". Defense One. June 17, 2016. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016.

External linksEdit