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New US task force to fight homegrown terrorism

Washington is planning a new task force to improve its ability to fight terrorists online. Leading tech companies in Silicon Valley are also meeting with officials to discuss online counterterrorism strategies.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have announced plans to establish a new task force to "integrate and harmonize domestic [counterterrorism] efforts at home," Ned Price, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said in an official statement on Friday.

According to Price, the attacks in Paris in November and in

San Bernardino, California

last month "underscored the need for the United States and our partners in the international community and the private sector to deny violent extremists like [the so-called 'Islamic State'] fertile recruitment ground."

The task force, to be known as the "Global Engagement Center" would help the US "place an intensified focus on empowering and enabling the voices of international partners," Price added.

'Disrupting paths to violence'

The plans were announced as US security officials met with representatives of leading technology companies in Silicon Valley to discuss improved methods to thwart terrorists' activities on the Internet. Apple CEO Tim Cook and senior executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn were expected to attend the meeting in San Jose.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there were precedents for Silicon Valley's social media giants working with security officials, such as in the fight against child pornography.

Earnest said that talks would focus on the "Islamic State's" (IS) use of social media to "recruit, radicalize and mobilize" its followers. The executives would also discuss how technology could disrupt paths to violence and how they could create "alternative content" to undercut IS propaganda.

Several social media outlets, including Twitter, have recently updated their policies to prohibit "hateful conduct" on their pages.

mg/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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