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    3Ps to Counter Cyber Terrorism -- Prevent, Protect, Partner: A Multi-Pronged, Multilateral Policy Framework with Delineated Implementation Mechanisms

    by Namra Zulfiqar 11/11/2019 04:39 AM GMT

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          3Ps to Counter Cyber Terrorism --  Prevent, Protect, Partner:

          A Multi-Pronged, Multilateral Policy Framework with Delineated Implementation Mechanisms

          The internet is a lawless place. The current lack of regulation, however, is not inherent to the digital world, rather a symptom of the fact that codified international law needs to catch up. Freedom of speech has constraints in real life, and given the destructive effects of global cyberterrorism, key efforts to match these regulations in preventing harmful propagation of terrorist interests online are more crucial than ever. In this proposal, we’ve laid out multi-pronged approaches to combating online terrorist activities, with a specific focus on prevention, protection, and partnership. These policies are strengthened by their ability to span two domains: palliative and preventative. While our palliative policy proposals can work to dismantle existing systems of digital terrorism, the preventative ones seek to preemptively target root causes that give rise to online terrorist activity.


          Target Economic Development as a Root Cause of Terrorism

          This is particularly applicable to developing nations in Africa, South Asia, and South-East Asia. When people do not have the means to support their family, they often resort to joining a terrorist group because it is the only potential source of stable income. 

          As “terrorists seem to be drawn from the bottom portion of the politically active class, a finding that supports the idea that they are motivated at least in part by economic opportunity costs and calculations of personal advantage, rather than solely or primarily by ideology or grievance,” foreign aid should focus on sustainable economic development in regions that have previously been hotspots for terrorism recruitment or show warning signs of future recruitment. 

          1. Use data analytics to identify hubs/hotspots of terrorist information posting and activity as well as areas of general high unemployment and lack of economic development.
            1. Using the insights from this data, we aim for the development of targeted foreign aid and programs of economic development in those specific areas with organizations such as the Middle East Investment Initiative, which aims to increase access to finance in the MENA region in order to promote long term economic and in turn, political and social stability. We would use the presence of these organizations on the ground to add anti-radicalization education and training. Hhumanitarian aid and FDI could also be used as a way to incentivize local infrastructure to promote anti-terrorism education.
            2. This allows us to position as apolitical, which will maximize reach and buy-in. This aid can continue to be a conduit for long-term economic growth, thereby producing social conditions that tend to deter terrorist strongholds and an educated citizenry.

          Set Up Rigorous Vetting Process for What Counts as Acceptable Political Content 

          In order to effectively regulate freedom of speech on the internet, you must first clearly legislate what that entails. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifies conditions on freedom of speech: “Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” However, widespread dissemination of magazines such as ISIS’ Dabiq are proof that this covenant is not being properly implemented, and they implications of lack of regulation are immense, as “the two main channels that ISIS uses to spread their propaganda messages are through social media sites such as Twitter and through online journals such as the Dabiq.”

          1. Legislation that stipulates that terrorist organizations do not have the same rights to freedom of speech if it infringes on safety, order, health or morals. 
            1. While we understand the risk that authoritarian governments may use this law as a loophole to label opposing parties as “terrorists” and therefore restrict their freedom of speech, we emphasize that labelling of such groups be done by international organizations such as the UN.
            2. Need to set a clear standard of where terrorism/radicalizing content transgresses the boundaries of acceptable speech that should be protected under considerations for freedom of speech. 
            3. Enforcement mechanisms:
              1. Social Networks should hire content regulators who are fluent in the languages of active terrorist groups (e.g. Arabic in the case of ISIL) to more accurately identify terrorist content
              2. Look for content around not only religious extremism, but also political extremism. Content regulators may focus on religious ideology becuase of Western perceptions of radicalization focused around Islam, but often recruiters will focus on political ideology on platforms such as Twitter since it is more pallatable to a broader audience and then after people are interested, they shift to a more radical ideology. Focusing on tracking radical political ideology may help curb before the shift to radicalization. 
            4. In contested territories that are not under the control of a specific government (e.g. Northern Syria), have violations default to being prosecuted by an international entity (e.g. ICJ). 
            5. Practical:
              1. Infrastructural: See the Partnership section on opportunities for collaboration across nations and from international organizations (such as the UN) to help bolster infrastructure countries with lower technological capability thresholds
              2. Legal: Allow for prosecutions of domestic violations within countries with weaker cyber-control infrastructure and weaker prosecution systems, such as those in the Middle East and Africa, to take place in international courts  

          Use Metadata to Aid Law Enforcement Officials’ Identification of Terrorist Networks and Where Potential Future Attacks Might Occur

            1. Time between messages, location of messages sent and received, specific IP addresses as focal points for multiple threads of activity, etc. should be used as data in counterterrorism efforts
            2. To determine when access is reasonable, refer to legislative elements of this proposal


          Ensure Consumers are Protected Against Misuse of their Data

          Recent scandals such as Cambridge - Analytica have shown the need to legislate around customer rights to data privacy. Facebook recently admitted to giving over 150 companies more intrusive access to users’ data than previously admitted, exempting them from its usual privacy rules. Access to data is such a prized commodity, yet there is so little legislation around customer protection. 

          1. There is little legislation around customer data purchases, and nothing to prevent terrorist agencies from purchasing data similar to the ways that advertising agencies do to target their ads in order to target specific populations that may be more susceptible to radicalization (unemployed, uneducated, etc.). 
            1. Legislation and Implementation of stringent international laws that will force companies such as Facebook and Twitter to screen potential buyers of data, and stipulations that prevent reselling of data.  

          Co-opt Terrorist Groups’ Strategies to Allow Anti-Terror Information to Infiltrate Those Communities Most Exposed to Radicalizing Content

          Many terrorist organizations have sophisticated systems of multiple account creation and automatic message dissemination to counter deletion by social networks. They also will frequently initially pass as liberal and progressive accounts and slowly radicalize their message to indoctrinate a new set of followers. UN forces should use similar tactics to counter these strategies.

            1. Investment in Machine Learning Strategies
              1. Technology platforms need to stay on top message codes terrorist organizations develop to communicate. ISIS created an application called “The Dawn of Glad Tidings” which automatically disseminated pre-approved ISIS messages via Twitter posts (Irshaid, 2014). This automation of posting should allow for social networks, in turn, with relative ease, allocate more resources to developing responsive bots that can track applications created by terrorist networks to delete accounts virtually automatically as pop up.
            2. Capturing Terrorist Support Bases’ Attention via Account Emulation
              1. Decipher strategies used by terrorist organizations to transfer followers from account to account when existing channels of communication are identified/shut down. In order to gain the attention of their follower bases, we should mimic those strategies and create infiltrated channels through which we can push anti-terror information. 
            3. Information Dispersion through Bot Accounts 
              1. Use previously deleted account data to emulate terrorist jargon and hashtags on these accounts and gain initial trust from the follower base. Then, leverage this trust to spread information about the social harms and negative consequences of these radical ideologies. This bursts the confirmation bias bubbles of misinformation that many social networks foster. 

          Adapt Internet Laws so Paid Advertisements Fall Outside of the Section 230’s Jurisdiction

          Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Although the CDA is only applicable within US domestic policy,  an amendment to its standard will set an international precedent and can then be used as a standard across the board. This clarification is necessary as while Section 230 abolished the legal standard of the gatekeeping regime for social media companies, paid advertisements involve a form of active algorithmic promotion on the part of the social media company. 

            1. Develop Methods for social media and other technology companies to comply with this standard:
              1. Use image and video hashing technologies to identify potentially radicalizing content (hashing creates a fingerprint for content that can then be cross matched with new images/videos - i.e. prospective ad posts - to check for terrorist content). 
            2. Government regulation: set up stricter penalties for companies that fail to take down ads (delineate standard of negligence), because companies such as Facebook “only recently began scanning more actively for content from Islamic State and al-Qaeda after pressure from governments and is training its artificial intelligence systems to get better at flagging bad posts” and they will need continued incentives to invest in regulation. 


          Allow National Agencies to Submit Cross-Border Subpoena Requests to the UNSC CTC or ICJ

            1. Context: While cybercrime continues to cross international borders, national law enforcement agencies are constrained by national jurisdictions, and cross-border information extraction often requires cumbersome bilateral agreements that delay action and prevent adequate and immediate responses. 
            2. Goal: This plan would give countries a way to receive authorization to access information that is necessary to combating terrorism that has physical impacts within their borders but involves information transmission beyond their national jurisdiction 
            3. Impact: Creates a system of collaboration (ideal because it works for mutual benefit; just doesn’t happen organically because of how sovereignty and game theory incentives work in the status quo)
            4. UN Action: The UN should set up a direct line of communication (or joint body) between the UNSC CTC (Counter-Terrorism Committee) and the ICJ to help facilitate these requests
              1. Particularly politically expedient for immediate alignment of interests and concessions of hardline sovereignty within regional entities. They can then further leverage this social cohesion to apply between unions
              2. Strengthens the internal culture of collaboration
              3. Provides precedence/infrastructural support 
              1. Status quo: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) is cumbersome, outdated, not sufficiently streamlined and adapted to a modern digitized world 
              2. Proposal: Development of a centralized agency to handle cross-national requests for collaboration and calls for cross-border subpoena requests 
              3. Point of synergy: Collaborate with other multilateral organizations like the African Union, Arab League, European Union, etc. 

          Promote Collaboration Across Countries

          Particularly helpful for developing nations in Africa, South Asia, and South-East Asia, who might be most vulnerable to forms of cyberterrorism yet lack the needed infrastructure to effectively implement proposals outlined in this document

            1. UNSCCTC (Counter Terrorism Committee): conducts expert assessments of each Member State and facilitates counter-terrorism technical assistance to countries.
              1. Bolster the cyber strategy arm of the CTC, with a specific emphasis on sharing data analytics tools between member states to protect the most vulnerable regions
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