The State Department on Wednesday stepped up efforts to counter moves by al-Qaida and other Muslim extremists to recruit more Americans and other English speakers via the Internet.
"We need to be ready to blunt their appeal," Alberto Fernandez, coordinator of the department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, told The New York Times
The pilot program focuses on deterring men ages 18 to 30, mostly in the Middle East, from becoming involved with such groups, The Times reported.
As examples of such groups' influence, authorities cite the case of the accused Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
They built pressure-cooker bombs they set off at the finish line of the marathon in April from information they obtained from al-Qaida's online magazine, Inspire, The Times reports.
Since 2011, many Americans have gone or tried to go to Syria to fight with the rebels against President Bashar al-Assad's military, the Times reports.
In addition, the propaganda on al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate now has English subtitles — and al-Shabaab, the Islamist extremist group in Somalia, now has an English-language magazine on the web.
"They were setting the narrative and had a free shot at the audience for radicalizing people," Fernandez, a former U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, told The Times.
He was referring to the unchallenged efforts for several years by these groups in getting their online messages across to English speakers. "Nobody was calling them" on it.
According to The Times, the State Department's program includes posting messages on English-language sites that jihadists scour for promoting their causes, recruiting loyalists, and raising money.
For now, though, only images and messages will be posted — not efforts to engage extremists in online conversations, The Times reports.
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