Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) online in the U.S. – Part 3 of 7

In Part #1 and Part #2 of CVE online in the U.S., I discussed the challenges of removing extremist content from U.S. ISP’s and then addressed the consequences of shutting down this content.  Both of these posts focused on the supply of extremist content. In Part #3, I’ll move into a separate question I noted in Part #1 and an even more tricky area- “What is extreme content?”

3)     Who would be responsible for identifying and tagging extremist content in the USG? (Essentially, what is extremist content and who will decide what is extremist content?)

This may be the toughest CVE related question of them all.  Determining what is extremist will be a huge challenge.  We can say “advocating violence” but that can get twisted in a lot of different directions depending on the definition of “extremist” and who is in power to craft and enforce policy.  We are all responsible adults and I imagine we could establish some good guidelines.  However, over time, threats will change and the reins of power will shift.

How might a definition of “extremist content” be used in the future for other purposes?  I recently heard a media pundit and on another occasion a political figure call NPR and PBS “Extremist”.  I like to think this is a silly example, but our country has a history of massaging policies depending on who is in charge, the intensity of threats, and the ambiguity of terms (like extremist).   Balancing freedom of speech with the need to protect American citizens has always been a challenge and the incarnation of extremist content via the Internet appears to be the next complicated chapter in this saga.  Even if we could determine what is extremist content, what element in the government would enforce this?  I’m assuming DHS would get tagged with the responsibility.  Are they the best fit for enforcing such a policy?

When I look back at this past decade, there have been repeated deliberations over policies that when originally crafted probably seemed clear to the policy’s creators; Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, detainee rights, Miranda rights for terror suspects- I could go on for a while.  Each of these policies were good in some respects but encountered problems over time.  Are we sure we can draft a definition of “extremist content” that will be enduring and definitive?  I am not sure we can.  Not saying I wouldn’t try, but it would be a huge hurdle.  Any thoughts from the crowd on what might be a good and enforceable definition of “extremist content”? ad who would enforce it?

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