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Today, Claire Grady, the Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), joined United Kingdom Prime Minister May, Italy Prime Minister Gentiloni and French President Macron at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss efforts to curb terrorist recruitment online. Ms. Grady’s remarks as prepared are below.
I’d like to thank our UK allies for arranging this event, the tech companies who are on the digital front lines of this fight, and the nations in this room who recognize the threat and are stepping up to address it.
Make no mistake: we have entered a new age of terror. As the number-two official in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I see it firsthand every day.
The battleground is not confined by geographic borders. It is now in our backyards, and the threat has spread virally.
Yet too often we come to these forums…talk about the threat…and then we go home to business as usual.
But while we talk, our enemies are plotting in real-time. We cannot respond in slow motion.
That is why today, I implore all of you to replace complacency with concrete action.
We are not talking about ordinary criminals abusing internet platforms.
We are in the middle of a war, and terrorists are threatening our lives…our livelihoods…and our way of life. And we must address it together.
For the tech companies, right now their content is on your websites, they are recruiting on your apps, and they are exploiting your innovation to incite violence.
So today I propose three urgent lines of effort to counter the threat.
First, we need to ramp up community awareness.
Before terrorists have a chance to reach our people online, I urge all governments and social media companies to make citizens aware of the threat.
This includes outreach at all levels through awareness campaigns, intelligence products regarding trends, training for frontline defenders and civic leaders, and interactive engagement for young people.
Second, we must focus on actively countering terrorist recruitment itself.
We must find better ways to counter their propaganda with truth and to empower credible voices that will dissuade potential terrorist recruits from violence.
The tech companies have made progress. But I will repeat what has been said: we urgently need you to do more. You must establish a clear leadership of the GIFCT potentially through a rotating chairmanship.
You must measure your success by outputs, and not inputs—by how much harder you’ve made it for terrorists to exploit your websites and apps.
And you must find better ways to work with governments and smaller companies. Not just through sporadic big events, but in actionable ways that result in rapid takedowns of terrorist content and that keep your platforms from becoming virtual terrorist safe havens.
Finally, we need more early warning to know when individuals are plotting with terrorists online—and before they commit acts of violence.
This requires building trust between communities and law enforcement, expanding “See Something, Say Something”-style campaigns, and ensuring there are confidential tip lines and easy tools for the public to report suspicious activity online.
The bottom line is that we cannot surrender the digital battlespace to violent extremists.
Instead, in this age of crowd-sourced terrorism, we must fight back by turning the crowd against them.