Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has established a cyber wing to counter the propaganda and hate being preached by terrorist outfits like al Qaeda on the Internet.
Being described as an alternative to hacking, a team of interagency officials at this recently established the Centre for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication (CSCC) indulges in counter-spoof to the nasty propaganda of the terrorist and radical outfits like al Qaeda.
The interagency unit is housed at the State Department headquarters at Foggy Bottom. It was revealed to the world for the first time on Wednesday when Hillary in her speech gave details of how this team defaced al Qaeda advertisements on Yemeni website, which apparently preached hatred.
"So the specific case that the Secretary mentioned was a case where there was a nasty piece of al Qaeda propaganda, and we did our own counter-spoof of that as an effort to try to get our own message across.”
"Whenever we do this, we make clear that we identify ourselves clearly as part of the State Department's digital outreach team, so it's always clear who the sponsors of the alternative posts are," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"Let me also just make clear that we don't hack. We don't engage in covert activities. All of the work is attributed, as I said. In general, we usually do it on free sites and we do it in a free manner. Obviously, if we use YouTube, everybody pays on YouTube, so we do that, too," she said.
The CSCC is housed under the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and it coordinates the US government's foreign public communications efforts that are targeted against violent extremism and terrorist organisations especially al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The Centre was established some six months ago.
"The centre operates anywhere - in cyberspaces in particular, where we see propaganda that is put up by al Qaeda by its affiliates. It posts on any sites where it finds this stuff. In this case, it was countering a site that was based or affiliated with Yemeni terrorists. But it does that anywhere in the world where it finds this kind of thing," she said.
Responding to questions on this particular case as mentioned by Hillary, Nuland said the Yemeni site had put up pictures of coffins draped in American flags.
"We put up a counter-post of coffins draped in Yemeni flags to indicate that it is Yemenis who are dying at the hands of al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen," she said.
"The original post took pride in the killing of Americans. The point that we were trying to make in parallel was that, in fact, through this kind of activity, through this kind of propagation of violent extremism, through the kind of violent acts that groups like this are engaged in, it is actually more Yemenis who are meeting their death," she said.
"This is a site that is endeavouring to incite violence. We are simply making the point that the violence that they are inciting is ricocheting back against the local population and is not in service to a strong, stable, peaceful Yemen, but in fact is having the opposite effect. So we are countering propaganda with a counter-narrative that we believe is closer to the truth of the situation," she said.