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Cook, tech execs to meet with White House on terrorists' use of social media

Apple CEO Tim Cook and a host of tech industry executives will meet with White House officials on Friday to explore ways in which terrorist activity on social media and other online arenas can be hindered or countered.




According to BuzzFeed News, Cook will join representatives from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and other influential Silicon Valley players as part of a summit in San Jose, Calif., to discuss how each company might best leverage their respective online platforms to combat terrorists' use of social media as a recruitment tool. News of the upcoming summit was first reported by Reuters.

"The White House sees Silicon Valley as an integral part of fighting the propaganda from ISIL and other groups," an unnamed White House official told BuzzFeed News. "There needs to be a concerted effort to fight the ISIL propaganda."

While the list of tech executives attending tomorrow's meeting has not been revealed, sources informed Reuters that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers will be present.

The session comes after deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., sparked debate on the role social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, as well as encrypted messaging services similar to those offered by Apple and Google, play in terrorist recruitment, organization, planning and propaganda operations. Specifically, some have assigned partial blame on the tech industry for allowing contentious content to propagate online.

The democratization of high-tech communications hardware and services is a double-edged sword in that allowing consumer access to such assets inherently grants nefarious agents the same freedoms. For its part, companies like Twitter and Facebook enforce strict codes of conduct prohibiting terrorist activity.

Speaking on the topic of consumer protection against government surveillance, Cook has come down hard on agencies calling for softer encryption methods. According to Cook, removing Apple's existing strong encryption safeguards would not be of any benefit, and could do more harm than good.

"Terrorists will encrypt. They know what to do," Cook said in a February interview. "If we don't encrypt, the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999 percent of people who are good." He added, "You don't want to eliminate everyone's privacy. If you do, you not only don't solve the terrorist issue but you also take away something that is a human right. The consequences of doing that are very significant."