Voactiv, an online publication reported this week on a new ISIS threat aimed directly at Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, CEOs of Facebook and Twitter.
A 25-minute propaganda video on the social media site Telegram shows Zuckerberg and Dorsey covered with bullet holes. It ends with a direct threat to the two leaders.
“If you close one account we will take 10 in return and soon your names will be erased after we delete your sites, Allah willing, and will know that we say is true,” Voactiv reported.
Why the threats from ISIS against the online giants? Because it appears that the terrorists’ free ride on powerful media platforms might finally be be coming to an end.
Since then, the terrorist mass murders in Paris and San Bernadino have awakened sleeping giants on both sides of the Atlantic.
At recent meetings in Europe, I heard a new sense of urgency from diplomatic, police and intelligence officials in Rome, Brussels, and France vowing to do what it takes to keep their citizens safe from Islamist terrorist attacks. They made it clear that they expect better cooperation from U.S.–based Internet companies -- whose powerful communications and marketing platforms are leveraged by terrorists for recruitment, fundraising and command and control in their countries — or else.
Meanwhile in Silicon Valley the winds of change are finally blowing—at least when it comes to terrorist mass murderers.
As the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate Project, I regularly meet with leaders at the social media giants urging them to set transparent rules on hate and terrorist postings and to deploy real people--not avatars--to deal with the threat from this burgeoning global subculture of hate.
We also have urged the same companies to be proactive. It was never enough to see problematic postings or online recipes for pressure cooker bombs removed for a few hours, if such purveyors of mayhem and hate could immediately get back on their servers.
We know that these companies have the technological where with all to create tripwires and firewalls to block repeat offenders.
Facebook has been the most responsive, though with over 1.5 billion pages, their record is far from perfect. Google and YouTube have upgraded their efforts. And now, after Paris and San Bernadino, Twitter, long the propaganda weapon of choice of terrorists, recently removed 125,000 terrorist-related accounts. There are strong indications that they will undertake additional steps to degrade the terrorists’ manipulation of their social media platform.
All this is what has lead to ISIS’ new threats.
All this should have informed Apple’s wrong decision not to help the FBI access information locked within an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino mass murderers.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no legal or moral basis to protecting the right of terrorists -- dead or alive-- to encrypt their murderous schemes.
Yes, there is reason to worry about backdoor abuses by the NSA or MI5; but there is also the obligation of companies not to gift those who plot mass murders in our streets, with the cloak of secrecy that will cripple real-time anti-terror efforts by authorities.
Instead of lawyering up, Apple, should mensch up and work with other companies to help degrade -- not empower-- terrorists.
After all, the leading high-tech powerhouses in Silicon Valley prove every day that there is always a creative technological answer whenever their market share or business model is challenged.
Beyond the Apple /FBI dispute, when it comes to the broader issue of encryption, we look to Silicon Valley Inc. — not Capitol Hill -- to come up with a system that would provide a temporary key for law enforcement, who after obtaining the necessary warrants, could obtain data in terrorists’ encrypted files.
Here is a quote that appeared recently in Al Risalah, an online magazine for terrorists:
“Just as a Mujahid does not enter the battlefield without his Iman (faith) and his weapon, you must not exchange correspondence without encryption.”
Memo to Apple, et al: Does America really have to wait for a Supreme Court decision or the next 9/11 before you do your share to fight terrorism?
For now, sophisticated evildoers know they have the upper hand.