Hillary Clinton said this week that if elected president, she would work with major technology companies to "step up" counter-terrorism efforts, including surveillance of social media and campaigns to combat jihadist propaganda online. As Reuters reports, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made the comments in a speech in Cleveland Monday, one day after a gunman killed 49 people and left 53 wounded at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Clinton did not provide details on how she would work with tech companies, though her comments add to the ongoing debate over privacy and national security, which has intensified following recent terrorist attacks in both the US and Europe. In her speech, the former secretary of state called for an "intelligence surge," saying that security agencies "need better intelligence to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out." She also called on the government and tech companies to "use all our capabilities to counter jihadist propaganda online."
A call to "step up our game."
"As president, I will work with our great tech companies from Silicon Valley to Boston to step up our game," Clinton said. "We have to [do] a better job intercepting ISIS’ communications, tracking and analyzing social media posts and mapping jihadist networks, as well as promoting credible voices who can provide alternatives to radicalization."
Speaking to reporters on Monday, President Barack Obama said there is no evidence that the Orlando gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, was "directed externally" by ISIS, characterizing the attack as "an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been concerned about." FBI director James Comey said the agency is "highly confident that this killer was radicalized, and at least in some part through the internet."
Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have agreed to work with the US and European governments to combat radical propaganda and hate speech online, though some rights groups have raised concerns over censorship and further restraints on free speech. The Obama administration has been working with tech companies to develop counter-messaging campaigns to thwart ISIS propaganda, but it's not clear whether these efforts have been successful. Earlier this year, the White House announced plans to overhaul its campaign to combat ISIS propaganda, underscoring growing frustration with the program.
Clinton's presumptive opponent in the November election, Republican Donald Trump, has in the past taken a more hardline approach to intelligence gathering and online counter-terrorism efforts. Following the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, Trump said the US should consider "closing" the internet "in certain areas" to combat online extremism, and called for an Apple boycott after the company refused to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Clinton has taken a more equivocal approach to the encryption debate, calling for a "Manhattan-like project" to "bring the government and tech communities together."
It is not yet clear whether Mateen used any encrypted messaging apps or services to evade surveillance prior to carrying out Sunday's attack, but in a prepared speech delivered Monday, Trump said investigators should have unfettered access to his communications. "We need to know what the killer discussed with his relatives, parents, friends, and associates," Trump said. "We need to know if he was affiliated with any radical mosques or radical activists and what, if any, is their immigration status. We have to know, and we have to know fast."