Now that the Obama administration has shelved a plan to hack Iran, it's focusing its digital counterterrorism efforts on a simpler but more high-profile goal: kicking terrorists off social media.
At a closed-door but still not-very-top-secret meeting this week, the White House met with executives from Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other media and entertainment companies to brainstorm ways to stop the spread of ISIS online, BuzzFeed reported.
According to leaked agenda and participant lists, the meeting included representatives from 49 companies and was organized like a conference. There was a panel discussion on ISIS's media strategy, as well as sessions on how to increase "optimistic messaging," according to the LA Times.
The goal is to meet ISIS's well-organized PR machine head-on. Twitter already has a very public anti-terrorism stance, suspending more than 125,000 accounts that threaten or promote ISIS-related terrorist activity. But Google and Facebook may be harder to convince. Both companies have said that they will not bury search results that are supportive of ISIS despite requests from the Pentagon to do so.
"That's something that is always brought up in meetings. And it shows how little they understand us," a Google representative told BuzzFeed. "This is a Pandora's box we won't open, because if we answer a request by the U.S. government to feature one search result over another, what's to stop other countries from requesting the same? What's to stop each country from tailoring the search results of their citizens to their agenda? It's not a path we are willing to explore."
Apple has made a similar argument in its fight with the FBI over phone unlocking. Its controversial refusal to help the FBI access the phone of a suspected terrorist did not come up during the meetings, though, according to BuzzFeed. But the standoff seems to be exactly the type of situation the White House is trying to prevent by winning over the leaders of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Silicon Valley.