Don't Feed Trolls: U.S. Government Is 'Arguing' With Terrorists On Social Media

The U.S. government might not negotiate with terrorists, but it is willing to use social media as a tool to engage in conversation with jihadists and their sympathizers online. Why bother? The U.S. government hopes that it can convince potential terrorists to go in another direction. It's an ugly world the government's stepping into, but can it work?

"We are actually giving al Qaeda the benefit of the doubt because we are answering their arguments," Alberto Fernandez, coordinator of the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), tells CNN. "The way I see it is we are participating in the marketplace of ideas."


It's not a job for the faint of heart or anyone who can't stomach seeing the horrors of terrorist activities. There are photos of combatants holding heads of decapitated victims, videos of group executions, and other atrocities. It's because of these horrific acts that the government is willing to argue theologies on social media, but it also puts into perspective the type of people they're dealing with. The argument against these efforts is that the government is feeding the trolls, so to speak. Anyone who's ever engaged in an online argument knows this concept well.

Apparently this has been going on for the past three years. According to CNN, our government has been posting social media messages in Arabic, Urdu, and Somali arguing against the theologies of jihadists. It's just now drawing attention -- and criticism -- because of the recent launch of an English-language Twitter account. Some of the exchanges that are taking place have boiled down to little more than back-and-forth bickering.

What do you think about all this? Should the U.S. government use social media to engage in discussions and argue with terrorists, or does only add fuel to the fire?

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr (bbyrd009)