AUSTRALIA: Unfriending Extremist Groups

AMBER VERNETTI WRITES- At a conference in Washington D.C. last week, Australian Attorney General George Brandis announced an $18 million program that will fight pro-terrorist websites by closely observing social media sites that promote terrorist ideals. Following the theme of the summit, “countering violent extremism,” this program, dubbed Combating Terrorist Propaganda in Australia, aims to reduce the influence of extremist groups on the Internet.

The meeting at the White House included more than 80 countries and international establishments, and focused on eliminating extremism targeted towards the corruption of young minds. This is especially important at a time when groups like ISIS and Boko Haram have amassed great power and influence in Africa and Middle Eastern nations.

In an effort to combat terrorist groups’ presence online, Senator Brandis said, “We are monitoring social media for the purpose of identifying, and where appropriate taking down terrorist propaganda just as we monitor social media for the purpose of identifying and taking down pedophilia.” He also added, “We must move beyond the notion that some people still have that the Internet and social media are a lawless space. They are not.”

Laurie Patton, representing the Internet Society of Australia, is ready to collaborate with parliament to figure out strategies, but wants them to be well-planned and thought out: “We acknowledge the government’s concerns on national security, but we are concerned that they are rushing into activities that haven’t fully been thought through.”

Another initiative that was introduced to parliament was the concept of telecommunication companies withholding customer metadata information for two years for security purposes.

Senator Brandis also pointed to the fact that groups like ISIS have a high success rate for drafting members from foreign countries.

Foreign minister Julie Bishop believes that there were 90 Australians among 16,000 ‘foreign fighters’ participating in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Bishop said, “We believe that over 20 Australians have been killed in the conflict in Syria and Iraq. They are not martyrs. They are just cannon fodder for an evil cause.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s address to parliament concerning national security last Monday lacked solid details, but he was certain about one particular thing: dual citizens involved in extremist groups will lose their Australian citizenship and other privileges like welfare.

Perhaps it’s better to stay out of trouble, mate.

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