U.S. harnesses Facebook, MTV in fight against terrorism

Published 25 November 2008

Seventeen pro-democracy, anti-terror groups from South Africa, Britain, and the Middle East which have an online presence will gather in New York to exchange notes

Henry Kissinger, in his academic days, wrote that the mark of an enlightened statesmanship is the ability to recognize and work with the “historical materials on hand” (he said that in the context of criticizing the Austro-Hungarian chancellor Metternich, who tried, in vain, to recreate the pre-Napoleonic European order in the post-Napoleonic age). Speaking of historical materials on hand, just look at the U.S. State Department: Drawing inspiration from a movement against FARC rebels in Colombia, the department is joining forces with Facebook, Google, MTV, Howcast, and others in New York City next week to get the “ball rolling.” It said seventeen groups from South Africa, Britain, and the Middle East which have an online presence like the “Million Voices Against the FARC” will attend a conference at Columbia University Law School on 3-5 December.

AFP reports that observers from seven organizations that do not have an online presence — such as groups from Iraq and Afghanistan — will attend. There will also be remote participants from Cuba. They will forge an “Alliance of Youth Movement,” said James Glassman, under secretary of state for public diplomacy. “The idea is put all these people together, share best practices, produce a manual that will be accessible online and in print to any group that wants to build a youth empowerment organization to push back against violence and oppression around the world,” he told reporters. The conference will be streamed by MTV and Howcast, he said.

The list of organizations due to attend include the Burma Global Action Network, a human rights movement spurred into action by the ruling junta’s crackdown on monks and other pro-democracy protesters last year.

There is also Shabab 6 of April, which has emerged as Egypt’s largest pro-democracy youth group, and Invisible Children, which spotlights atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Glassman said. Others include Fight Back, which fights domestic violence in India, the Save Darfur Coalition, as well as One Million Voices Against Crime in South Africa, said Jared Cohen, from the secretary’s policy planning staff.

Also attending will be People’s March Against Knife Crime from Britain and Young Civilians from Turkey.

Cohen said Young Civilians is a human rights and pro-democracy organization which works online but has brought thousands of protesters into the streets of Turkey. Glassman said the State Department is providing about $50,000 in order to help bring delegates from the groups to the United States. Among the speakers will be actress Whoopi Goldberg and a co-founder of Facebook.