Gen. Carter Ham: Access to Internet, Social Media is Important, but Carries Security Risks
RABAT, Morocco (September 29, 2012) – Social media, including opportunities it provides for youth and the challenges it provides for security, took center stage on the second day of The Atlantic Dialogues, a high-level meeting focused on the Atlantic Basin.
Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, said that while he’s pleased with the creative access social media allows there is cause for concern. Although the Internet must be open in order for society to progress, he said, “the connectivity that it brings, it certainly does bring vulnerabilities, in a sinister way in terms of attacks on networks that can certainly be of great concern but it also brings the risk of content” that can be dangerous itself.
Ham spoke on a panel on security at The Atlantic Dialogues, a high-level gathering of international public- and private-sector leaders from around the Atlantic Basin. The Atlantic Dialogues is organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in partnership with the OCP Foundation of Morocco.
“We forget frequently that social media is very helpful to sack any kind of regime, also actually democratic ones,” said Artis Pabriks, the Latvian defense minister. “But can it also help to create a new stable regime? We still do not have an answer to that.”
The panel addressed other security challenges, including narcotics trafficking and terrorism that must be dealt with on a transnational or transcontinental basis.
The potential threat al-Qaeda poses to the integrity of Atlantic maritime security was raised. Khalid Zerouali, director of migration and border control in the Moroccan interior ministry, said that while the terrorist organization doesn’t currently have a strong foothold in the maritime domain, “it’s just a matter of time….We have to be vigilant.”
The day’s first panel focused more on the younger generation—the “iGeneration”—including the large numbers of unemployed youth.
Henry Wallice Charles, international youth development specialist and policy strategy advisor from the Caribbean said that youth should be strategic partners in development. “How can you go about the development if that leaves out the talent, the creativity, the dynamism of 50 percent of the world population?”
Farah Pandith, the U.S. special representative to Muslim communities, said that the ideas of the young people are “percolating” and being shared around the world through new technologies, but her enthusiasm was not universal.
“I totally disagree when there is a tendency to say, well, the iMedia, the new social media, should be a kind of new form of democracy,” said Yves Leterme, OECD’s deputy secretary general. “No. This is a step too far. We have constitutions, we have parliaments, we have elected people, and these people have to decide. And if young people want to be involved in thinking and policymaking, they have to take responsibilities, they have to be candidates, and they have to be elected. And when they are elected, they can decide in the name of the people, but not having a kind of populist political culture coming from impulse reactions in social media. I don't think that is the right way to rule a country or a society.”
The second panel of the day focused on the Atlantic corridors in the global economy. The consensus among the panelists was that a maritime agreement was needed between South America and Africa. “We need this bridge between Africa and Latin America,” said Vital Moreira, Portuguese member of the European Parliament. “Some progress has been made, [but] it’s up to them to bridge this gap.”
The Atlantic Dialogues is a high-level gathering of international public- and private-sector leaders from around the Atlantic Basin. The Atlantic Dialogues is organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in partnership with the OCP Foundation of Morocco. For three days, more than 300 participants from North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia are engaging in interactive panels and smaller break-out sessions to discuss cross-regional issues ranging from security to economics and migration to energy. Participants come from the governmental, business, think tank, and media sectors representing 45 countries.