The book titled “The New Digital Age” for short, written by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen of Google fame, has begun to spill is many angles on the future of our increasingly connected world into the public. In one section of the book titled “The Future of Terrorism”, Schmidt and Cohen speak both of the possibilities of an extremist (and/or terrorist) group infiltrating groups of mobile device users and of an actual happening which involved a global extremist group using Motorola mobile-phone businesses in Pakistan to “bombard” the country’s national newspaper editors with propaganda.
As in much of the writings included in the book, the bits included in this Future of Terrorism section do not offer many answers for the questions they raise. Schmidt and Cohen here – and several times throughout the book – speak of the dangers that exist in our modern interconnected world both in prospect and in reality – it could happen, and it could happen again.
In this case, warning about the “importance of digital marketing for future terrorists”, Schmidt and Cohen note that they’re expecting groups to be jumping in with mobile and Internet companies en masse. Schmidt and Cohen give an example account spoken of by a man named Maajid Nawaz, he being a former leader in the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). He speaks of the group’s movements around mobile-phone companies, specifically Motorola in Pakistan.
“‘We pitched propaganda stalls outside the Motorola offices in Pakistan, then we recruited some Motorola staff, who proceeded to leak the numbers of Pakistan’s national newspaper editors,’ he said. Members of the HT would bombard these editors with text messages full of propaganda, talking points, and event threats.” – Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, The New Digital Age
This same contact with the HT group mentioned the fact that these mobile phone carrier employees would also provide members of the group with concealed identities when they themselves signed up for phone service. Schmidt and Cohen suggest that this is only one of a number of situations in which the mobile connectivity we have here in the present will become a potential problem in the hands of extremist political groups in the near future.
They speak also of the idea that groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas might seek to gain influence over citizens with apps that provide services everyday users might find valuable. The book notes how groups such as these gain community support by providing services the larger state will not or cannot provide.
Responding to the obvious counter-point to being able to create apps and sent them to the public without opposition from the government or those that might control the software that appears on smart devices, Cohen and Schmidt suggest the simplest of work-arounds.
“Even if the Apple store blocked their applications under order from the U.S. government, or the U.N. took similar actions, it would be possible to build apps without any official tie to Hamas then promote them through word of mouth.” – Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, The New Digital Age
These points connect with chats and keynotes made by Eric Schmidt over the past several years, especially most recently in a transcribed conversation with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It’s there that Schmidt, Assange, and Cohen collect several hours of material in hopes of including relevant topics in the book. This book is, of course, available digitally starting this week.