Antiterrorism on the agenda as Silicon Valley meets with top federal officials

Tough questions about surveillance and privacy come to the fore in a San Jose, California, meeting that includes some of tech's biggest companies, Apple and Google among them.

A memorial to the victims of the attacks in Paris.

A memorial to the victims of the attacks in Paris. Since the terrorist incidents there and in San Bernardino, California, the issue of how tech companies can help combat terrorism has come to a boil.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Top federal law enforcement and security officials are in Silicon Valley on Friday, meeting with representatives from the biggest names in tech. At issue: how tech and government can work together to fight terrorism.

The summit highlights the government's heightened sense of urgency in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, shootings last month, when followers of the Islamic State killed 14 people. Topics on the agenda reportedly include encryption, monitoring social-media accounts and encouraging others to resist terror organizations' online recruitment efforts.

"The [Obama] administration is committed to taking every action possible to confront and interdict terrorist activities wherever they may occur, including in cyberspace," a senior administration official said. "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 as a whole."

Facebook and Google have confirmed they are sending executives to the summit. Numerous newspapers report that executives from Twitter, Microsoft and YouTube are also attending. Buzzfeed has reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook will attend.

Updated at 3:34 p.m. PT to add a statement from Facebook: A Facebook spokesman provided a statement Friday afternoon after the meeting, saying the event showed the company was united with the government in fighting terrorism. "We explained our policies and how we enforce them -- Facebook does not tolerate terrorists or terror propaganda and we work aggressively to remove it as soon as we become aware of it," the spokesman said. "This is an ever-evolving landscape, and we will continue to engage regularly with NGOs, industry partners, academics, and government officials on how to keep Facebook, and other Internet services, free of this material."

The Guardian published an agenda of the meeting, being held in San Jose, California. The outline mentions various discussion topics, including:

  • Making it harder for terrorists to use the Internet to recruit followers.
  • Helping others create content that would undercut the Islamic State.
  • Using technology to disrupt radicalization and identify recruitment patterns and to measure the results of these efforts.
  • Making it easier for police to identify terrorists and prevent attacks.

The government is sending a who's who of top federal law enforcement and intelligence officials to the meeting. They include White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, presidential counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, and Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Megan Smith, the administration official said. Also attending are Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, according to a report from Reuters.

Some officials may join via teleconference, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Though terrorism has been a major government concern for years, the focus intensified in November, when attacks in Paris organized by followers of the Islamic State killed more than 130 people.

Since then, the US government has been working, among other things, to get Twitter and Facebook to pull down accounts that seek to recruit people for terrorist actions.

The question of how to prevent online recruitment is a tricky one. Social-media companies all have terms of service that prevent certain types of offensive speech, but the role companies should play in monitoring and reporting accounts that might belong to extremists is largely undefined.

CNET's Terry Collins contributed to this report.

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