Social media sites would be required to report terrorist activity on their networks if newly reintroduced legislation gains needed support.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have introduced the Requiring Reporting of Online Terrorist Activity Act, a bill that requires technology companies to report online terrorist activity to law enforcement. The bill would not require companies to monitor customers or undertake any additional action to turn up terrorist activity; it only requires that if they become aware of activity such as attack planning, recruitment, or distribution of terrorism-related materials that they report it.
This legislation was approved unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee in June as part of the annual intelligence authorization bill, but was later removed from the bill amid political wrangling.
Critics include Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who placed a hold on intelligence authorization bill over what he called “a flawed provision.” that would require companies like Twitter and Facebook to make judgments about when users’ speech constitutes “terrorist activity.” After hearing concerns from a number of companies, Wyden warned this provision could lead to companies taking drastic steps to police users’ speech online.
“There is no question that tracking terrorist activity and preventing online terrorist recruitment should be top priorities for law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” he said at the time. “But I haven’t yet heard any law enforcement or intelligence agencies suggest that this provision will actually help catch terrorists, and I take the concerns that have been raised about its breadth and vagueness seriously. Internet companies should not be subject to broad requirements to police the speech of their users.”
The Internet Association, which represents dozens of leading technology companies, has objected the reporting provision.