According to a report on Wired penned by Spencer Ackerman, a project codenamed Viral Peace would be using harassment and irrelevant comments as techniques to sow chaos in jihadi forums and other online communities. The goal is to hurt Islamist extremist’s recruitment activities online.
Ackerman terms this as “strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pawnage”. The creator, Shahed Amanullah told Wired that he hopes to use ‘logic, humor, satire, religious arguments, not just to confront extremists but to undermine and demoralize them. “The recent months have shown that Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine and have started to train Trolling 101 on the premise that Muslims would understand how best to agitate these extremist communities to bring out the best in these individuals.
This begs the question as to the efficacy of this process to continue the War on Terror. The first rule in communities is ‘Don’t feed the trolls.’ This may be one reason as to the effect why a jihadi would understand to ignore a troll and avoid them. One expert on the subject, Professor Jonathan Bishop said through an email, “The US government is not going anywhere by flame trolling Jihads. Bishop is a co-founder of Crocels Trolling Academy, a non-profit initiative at Swansea University in Wales. The goal of the research is to study psychology and the effects of trolling and he believes this process may end up backfiring on the users. He says, “The US should expect Jihads to ‘fight flame with flame’ or even worse ‘fight flame with firearms’.”
The program still has to identify which online communities are hotbeds for jihadi activity as well as how best to undertake the trolling. Amanullah believes that these decisions are best left to the trollers, as being on the ground gives them an insight as to internet cultures and where they are located compared to some State Department pencil pusher. There is also scant funding for the project, making it all plans and potentially without any execution.