The latest development in Donald Trump’s controversial treatment of the Muslim community is a new plan to rename the “Countering Violent Extremism” program to “Countering Islamic Extremism.” The plan calls for the program to no longer focus on all terrorist groups—like white supremacists—and solely target potential Muslim extremists.
When the CVE strategy was first announced, officials described it as “a three-pronged approach that includes community engagement, better training, and counternarratives that make a case for why violent extremism is a dead end.” It’s largely a complicated propaganda program for “counter-messaging” extremists—especially online.
Both Facebook and Google participate in the CVE program, but it’s not clear to what extent. Monica Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, told Reuters early last year, “You don’t necessarily know if something is going to change the way someone thinks offline, but we can measure whether somebody shares that content or interacts with it.”
Those companies’ participation in the program would certainly become more controversial if the planned name change goes through. (“Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” is also on option being considered.)
Reuters exclusively reported the deliberations about the name change, citing “a source who has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security.” The report says:
Some Republicans in Congress have long assailed the program as politically correct and ineffective, asserting that singling out and using the term “radical Islam” as the trigger for many violent attacks would help focus deterrence efforts.
Trump made it one of his only consistent positions while campaigning that he would use the phrase “radical Islam” when speaking about terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims. And indeed, when he signed his likely illegal executive order on immigration last week, he said he was “establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.”
While that order has many, many problems, it also appears to be poorly executed as far as his stated intentions. According to an analysis by the Cato Institute, no American has been killed on U.S. soil by citizens from any of the seven banned countries between 1975 and 2015. Likewise, domestic terrorism is often committed by white supremacists and the mentally ill, so the plan to place all focus on terrorists motivated by “radical Islam” seems reckless.
In fact, many worry that Trump’s insistence on framing the fight against terrorism as a fight against Islam makes us less safe. Hundreds of U.S. diplomats signed a statement that says exactly that, this week. “The net result... will not be a drop in terror attacks in the United States,” it read, “rather it will be a drop in international good will toward Americans.”
There’s no reason to believe Trump won’t follow through on this, but will Facebook and Google continue to participate?