White House recruits tech, media and Hollywood in fight against Islamic State

Supporters of Apple's stance against the FBI hold a rally Tuesday outside an Apple Store in Los Angeles.

Supporters of Apple’s stance against the FBI hold a rally Tuesday outside an Apple Store in Los Angeles.

(MARK RALSTON / AFP/Getty Images)

White House officials met with representatives from the tech, advertising and entertainment industries Wednesday to discuss how to combat activities of terrorist groups online.

Representatives from at least 49 companies — including Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google, Mediacom and Edelman — were invited to meet with officials from the Justice Department, the United Nations, the British Embassy and the Department of Homeland Security.

The meeting was called the Madison Valleywood Project, in reference to the participation of industries on Madison Avenue, in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, according to documents from the meeting reviewed by The Times.


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The agenda included talks by the assistant attorney general for national security, John P. Carlin, and a panel discussion about the militant group Islamic State’s media strategy and ways to “scale counter-narratives and optimistic messaging.”

The agenda also detailed activities such as “Storyboarding the Opportunity,” in which teams of eight people of interdisciplinary skills determined where their companies could have the greatest effect. They then prepared their ideas for a presentation. In “Huddle to Roadmap Next 100 Days,” teams came up with a plan for things they could do for the next 100 days.

The meeting comes at a time when the technology industry’s cooperation with the government is under heavy scrutiny. Apple in particular is facing increasing pressure from the FBI to provide assistance in hacking an iPhone that belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple has steadfastly refused to cooperate, citing customer privacy concerns.

Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the goal is to take “every action possible to confront and interdict terrorist activities wherever they may occur, including in cyberspace.”

“We are using this engagement and others to enlist the help of industry leaders and experts in our effort to ensure we bring the most innovative private and public sector thinking to all aspects of combating terrorism,” the DOJ official said.

Meanwhile, Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch told a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that companies must comply with court orders to search devices.

Without mentioning Apple, Lynch repeated the government’s position that companies should take extra steps to help law enforcement execute warrants.

“If the government needs the assistance of third parties to ensure that the search is actually conducted, judges all over the country and on the Supreme Court have said that those parties must assist if it is reasonably within their power to do so,” she said.

“And that is what we have been asking, and we owe it to the victims and to the public whose safety we must protect to ensure that we have done everything under the law to fully investigate terrorist attacks on American soil.”

Twitter: @traceylien


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