Fighting ISIS in the Information Space

Government and Civil Society Perspectives

Many ISIS fighters, sympathizers, recruits, recruiters, and “lone-wolf” attackers often have something in common: they have been radicalized online or have been exposed to extremist content via online channels. Whether it’s through Twitter accounts, YouTube, or other platforms, potential ISIS sympathizers  have easy access to radicalized interpretations of Muslim ideology, ISIS propaganda (Dabiq magazine), and other influential materials at their fingertips via mobile phones or computer screens. What can be done by the government and nonprofit and private sectors to counter this information flow? What is being done by the government and could be done in the information space writ large to help undermine the hateful, violent, messages coming from extremist groups around the globe?

In March 2016, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Global Engagement Center (GEC), an interagency entity housed at the State Department that is charged with coordinating, integrating and synchronizing U.S. counterterrorism messaging to foreign audiences. The Center is led by former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict Michael D. Lumpkin. The Obama administration recognizes that to successfully defeat ISIS, it, along with its partners, needs to discredit the ISIS ideology in the eyes of potential recruits and sympathizers. The Center is coordinating whole-of-government efforts to do just that.  The Center is also focused on cultivating and supporting a global network of partners—governments, NGOs, and other organizations—who can serve as credible messengers against ISIS and provide positive alternatives.

New America is pleased to host Meagen LaGraffe and Dr. Tara Maller for a panel discussion, moderated by Peter Bergen, on how the GEC, in partnership with NGOs and the private sector, will continue to fight ISIS online.

Follow the discussion online using #FightingISISOnline and following @NewAmericaISP.


Meagen LaGraffe
Chief of Staff, Global Engagement Center

Dr. Tara Maller
Spokesperson and Senior Policy Advisor for the Counter Extremism Project
Research Fellow, International Security program, New America


Peter Bergen
Director, International Security program, New America

Meagen LaGraffe is the Chief of Staff for the Global Engagement Center, the U.S. Government interagency organization designed to fight terrorist and violent extremist messaging.  Mrs. LaGraffe leads a staff of experts from the private sector and from across the interagency, including the Departments of Defense, Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of State, to implement new approaches to disrupt extremist propaganda.  Mrs. LaGraffe helps manage a $16 million budget, a growing team of information warfare specialists and technical experts, and serves as a senior advisor on counterterrorism, information operations, and CVE messaging strategy. Previously, Mrs. LaGraffe served as the Chief of Staff for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as special assistant to the Secretary of Homeland Security, where she provided strategic advice for the Department’s immigration, border security, and detention policies.  Prior to her appointment into the Obama Administration in 2010, Mrs. LaGraffe worked in the United States Senate, serving as an aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Dr. Tara Maller is a national security expert with extensive media and communications experience. She is the Spokesperson and Senior Policy Advisor for the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) and a research fellow in New America's International Security program. CEP is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideology and is led by a renowned group of former world leaders and former diplomats. She was previously the Director of Strategic Communications for the newly formed Service Year Alliance, a joint venture of the Aspen Institute and Be The Change. Maller previously served as a military analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, where she focused on the Iraq insurgency. Maller has appeared as a national security and foreign policy commentator on Bloomberg, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Fox Business, Al Jazeera America and HuffPost Live. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.