Clinton urges tech firms to fight terror

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking at the University of Minnesota on Dec 15.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaking at the University of Minnesota on Dec 15. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • United States Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has accelerated her call for technology companies to cooperate with the government and develop a "unified national strategy in cyberspace" to stop the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from using the Internet to recruit members in the US and around the world.

Speaking at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, a few hours before Republican presidential candidates were to debate in Las Vegas, Mrs Clinton made her third speech in three weeks about how to counter Islamic militancy.

Drawing on her time as secretary of state, she proposed new procedures for issuing visas to any foreigners who have travelled in specific areas and argued for boosting intelligence resources devoted to tracking potential terrorists.

But the core of her speech focused on how to end the deep suspicions between Silicon Valley and the government that were accentuated by the disclosures of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

She called on technology firms to move faster to remove websites and videos that espouse ISIS' violent ideology, an effort some companies, including YouTube, have been attempting for some time.

Other companies, however, have expressed concern about becoming the government's censor, or being put in the position of deciding what constitutes free speech and what constitutes incitement.

"The tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries" and start working together, said Mrs Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to polls.

She acknowledged that would be particularly difficult when it came to the problem of encryption - used to secure the chats, bank accounts and e-mails of ordinary Americans, and used by terrorists to hide their communications.

"I know there is no magic fix to this dilemma," she said, arguing, it seemed, for a middle ground that would not result in "impenetrable encryption" that police and intelligence officials cannot crack.

But firms like Apple have made the case that any key or doorway created for law enforcement and intelligence officials will quickly become the locus of attack for hackers from China, Russia, Iran or elsewhere.

Mrs Clinton acknowledged that there would be civil liberties issues that must be resolved, and even before she spoke, her main challenger for the nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, issued a Twitter post that went to the heart of that vulnerability.

"I believe strongly we can protect our people without undermining our constitutional rights," he wrote. "I worry we are moving to an Orwellian society."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'Clinton urges tech firms to fight terror'. Print Edition | Subscribe