The Islamic State group has “global ambitions” and more must be done to tackle its use of social media for recruitment, representatives of governments and technology giants heard in Australia Thursday.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the regional extremism conference it was vital to find ways to stymie the ideology of extremists who are drawing thousands of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.
“You can’t negotiate with an entity like this, you can only fight it,” he said of Islamic State, to an audience including high-level officials from 30 nations, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Google.
“This is not terrorism for a local grievance, this is terrorism with global ambitions,” Abbott said.
“The only really effective defense against terrorism is persuading people that it’s pointless.
“We need idealistic young people to appreciate that joining this death cult [IS] is an utterly misguided and wrong-headed way to express their desire to sacrifice. How this is best done is, of course, the work of this conference.”
The two-day meeting comes as US President Barack Obama approved the deployment of 450 more military trainers to Iraq, joining an already 3,100-strong mission in the nation, in a cautious bid to reverse the gains by IS.
The new contingent will focus on efforts to wrest back control of provincial capital Ramadi after IS, which already controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, seized the predominantly Sunni city near Baghdad in May.
The Sydney gathering follows a similar meeting in Washington in February where Obama said nations had to tackle the root causes driving recruitment to such groups.
But the three days of talks did not lead to any concrete plans of measures to be taken.
The topics being discussed in Australia include working with social media, industry and civil society groups, combating terrorist propaganda and the involvement of women and families in any measures.
“Terrorists have exploited social media to develop a brand and to flood their target audience with propaganda that casts local conflicts to global audiences, drawing in foreign fighters from every corner of the globe,” Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said in his opening remarks.
“So over the next two days we will seek to deepen our shared understanding of the drivers that are pushing and pulling our citizens towards extremist ideologies.”
He earlier told Channel Nine television that Google, Facebook and Twitter’s attendance showed their commitment to addressing online recruitment.