Congress is poised to force Facebook and other social media networks to inform on users they believe might be engaged in “online terrorist activity.”
Last week Dianne Feinstein, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee along with the committee’s chairman Richard Burr, introduced the “Requiring Reporting of Online Terrorist Activity Act”.
The proposed law is modeled after an existing law requiring companies to report child pornography.
The bill’s language is wide ranging. It requires social media companies to report “terrorist activities and the unlawful distribution of information relating to explosives” and it will be used for vaguely stated “other purposes.”
Feinstein said in a statement issued on December 8 the “bill doesn’t require companies to take any additional actions to discover terrorist activity, it merely requires them to report such activity to law enforcement when they come across it.”
On December 7 Obama linked the attacks at Fort Hood in 2009, in Chattanooga earlier this year and in San Bernardino to the internet and social media.
“As groups like ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing effort by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers,” Obama said.
Companies faced with legislation that penalizes them for content on their networks will increase surveillance of customer activity. If enacted the law will result in a large number of users closing their accounts which in turn will negatively impact the profitability of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
Additionally, companies will face an insurmountable task surveilling billions of posts.
“The volume of material at issue is enormous,” notes CBS News. “Just look at your personal Facebook news feed and you can see hundreds of posts that range from the mundane to the controversial or maybe even inflammatory. Now multiply that times 1.01 billion daily active users on the site, roughly 84 percent of them from outside the United States and Canada, according to recent statistics from Facebook, posting in many languages and with varying degrees of seriousness or sarcasm, and the scope of the challenge becomes clear.”
Appearing on CNN presidential candidate Rand Paul said he would not force social media companies to act as informants for the government:
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 15, 2015