Terrorists: they’re just like us! They use message boards to communicate and organize. Before, these message board were largely free of “first!!!1” and painstakingly detailed ASCII art, but perhaps no more. Now, according to Wired, participants in the U.S. government’s “Viral Peace” program are prepared to fight for freedom the American way: with trolling, naturally.
Perhaps not since To Catch a Predator has Internet vigilantism seemed so entertaining. Shahed Amanullah, senior technology advisor to the State Department, developed the program to address the world of online terrorism and fill what he recognizes as a void in US counterterrorism strategies.
Program participants will enter various online chat forums to troll the people making jihadist claims by debunking myths, refuting grandiose claims and contributing to plain old harassment.
According to Mr. Amanullah, the people discussing jihadist theory online–while often making empty threats–contribute to the viral nature of jihadist ideals. He said these ideas are attractive to possible terrorists because of the ego factor. According to Wired, he proposes demoralizing the terrorism-touting chattering classes in order to make anti-jihadists seems like “actually a cool group of people to be in.”
But the project to make online anti-terrorism seem cool doesn’t have much of a budget right now–only a few thousand dollars–and it doesn’t have much of a strategy, either.
Instead, Mr. Amanullah is leaving the strategy up to his trolls, Wired reports: “It’s better, they argue, to let Muslims in various foreign countries figure out which message boards to troll and how to properly troll them.”
Troll training begins this spring. As study materials, we assume Mr. Amanullah has directed his participants to YouTube comments so they can get a better sense of how to be a gigantic asshole on the Internet.