The US Government has launched an online propaganda campaign in Yemen to counter Al-Qaeda's web recruitment drive. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken publicly of the tactics employed by the Centre for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), which has begun posting alternative messages on sites containing Al-Qaeda's own propaganda.
Clinton said cyber intelligence experts were taking down pages aimed at recruiting Yemenis to grow the ranks of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and posting messages highlighting the damages and loss of life caused by the Islamist group's attacks in the region.
But with American drone strikes in Yemen causing scores of deaths to innocent civilians, the propaganda duel promises to be a rather futile battle of online attrition as both sides continue to be responsible for bloodshed on the ground.
Earlier this month, an AQAP banner ad posted on various websites showed coffins draped with US flags in a rallying message against the American enemy, but just days later, the CSCC responded with an ad on the same sites depicting coffins covered in Yemeni flags, with the counter-claim that AQAP's victims are Yemeni citizens.
"Together, they [the CSCC] will work to pre-empt, discredit and outmanoeuvre extremist propaganda", Clinton said in a speech to the Special Operations Command in Tampa. "We can tell our efforts are starting to have an impact because extremists are publicly venting their frustration and asking supporters not to believe everything they read on the internet".
A senior US government official admitted the difficulty in determining how effective their campaign has been, as it's impossible to measure the number of people dissuaded from joining AQAP and its affiliates as a result of US messages.
The White House has emphasised that the CSCC do not hack websites, but post banner ads and messages on various sites and social media outlets. Al-Qaeda have been famed for their use of technology since the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks, with widely-circulated video messages promoting their cause.