Over the weekend, Politico published an opinion article on how the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) within the State Department uses social media and web forums to engage with potential radical groups to help influence them against violence or becoming a part of terrorist organizations. Unlike commercial marketing teams that use social media to convince potential customers to buy a product, the CSCC doesn’t try to convince its audience the virtue of U.S. policies and Western values. It reaches out to this small minority of mostly young men “who are vulnerable to the enticements of terror organizations or easily mobilized by the acts of marginal players.” Instead of focusing on countries or religious ideology, the CSCC pushes the conversation to the tangible consequences of terrorism and the victims of these acts. By creating doubt about its effectiveness and relevancy, the CSCC hopes to shrink the number of terrorists.
Ultimately, the CSCC pushes for a proactive approach instead of a reactive response, “to change behaviors before they reach the point of violence.” While not every government organization is interacting with radical and borderline violent audiences, most have at some point dealt with a dissatisfied constituent or stakeholder and know that simply filing away complaint emails don’t solve the root problem. If the State Dept can use social media and web forums to reach out to agitated foreigners, surely other government organizations can do the same with American citizens and interact with stakeholders where they live and through tools they’re already using before they become disillusioned of the government’s role in our lives. While engaging through inventive online avenues has been touch-and-go in many agencies, the CSCC’s work shines as an example of how at least putting yourself out online and through the tools of your audience can help change the conversation from blind animosity to constructive conversations.
This was my gut reaction after reading this article. What is yours?