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Pentagon says there's no pilot program to review troops' social media

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, gives a briefing and answers questions for the media on events within the Department of Defense, the Middle East and Africa during his weekly press conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 3, 2014. File photo courtesy the U.S. Department of Defense.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, gives a briefing and answers questions for the media on events within the Department of Defense, the Middle East and Africa during his weekly press conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., Oct. 3, 2014. File photo courtesy the U.S. Department of Defense.

May 18 (UPI) -- Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that the department is not planning to review troops' social media accounts for evidence of extremist activity, countering reports from earlier this week.

On Monday The Intercept reported that it had obtained documents describing Department of Defense plans to launch a pilot program to screen social media content for extremist material.

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That pilot would be spearheaded by the Pentagon's extremism working group and its chair, Bishop Garrison, the outlet reported.

"Mr. Garrison is leading the extremist working group on a number of efforts to try and help us learn what the scope and scale of the problem of extremist activity in the ranks really is -- and help us divine some potential solutions going forward," Kirby said.

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Kirby also said the military already takes a look at recruits' social media footprints as they come in, and also runs an insider threat program that sometimes examines troops' social media.

"If you have cause to be concerned about an individual or a group of individuals and the threat they might pose to the organization, it would be irresponsible not to take a look at what's out there in social media," Kirby said.

According to Kirby, the working group is reviewing existing policies as they relate to extremism, and is also working to create a department-wide definition of extremism and revising transition materials to prevent veterans from being targeted.

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In March, Ramon Colón-López, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military branches were collecting data about extremism in their ranks as part of a 60-day stand down to address extremism in the forces.

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