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In a new pilot program launched Wednesday, online analysts and bloggers at the U.S. State Department are posting messages to jihadist websites. The program is not designed to engage in online debates, but the bloggers will identify themselves as being from the State Department.

Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen is posting English subtitles on its website, as does al-Shabaab, the militant group in Somalia. Similar groups use a wide array of social media in English to promote their message, such as through their English-language websites, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos and Facebook. Experts say these English language sites have gone unchallenged.

A growing concern for Western governments is what these recruits may do once they return home to the West after fighting abroad, or how the English language sites may encourage users to plan possible attacks in the West. The U.S. State Department is stepping up efforts to recruit English speakers to combat online militancy, as extremist groups step up their effort to attract followers from the West. One example is Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are thought to have used information published on an al-Qaeda website to plan and cary-out the Boston Marathon attack.

The online messaging is an attempt to create a competing narrative to what extremist groups preach.


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