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Debating whether social media companies should be responsible for reporting terrorism




In this photo illustration the Social networking site Facebook is displayed on a laptop screen on March 25, 2009 in London, England. The British government has made proposals which would force Social networking websites such as Facebook to pass on details of users, friends and contacts to help fight terrorism.
In this photo illustration the Social networking site Facebook is displayed on a laptop screen on March 25, 2009 in London, England. The British government has made proposals which would force Social networking websites such as Facebook to pass on details of users, friends and contacts to help fight terrorism.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

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Tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are pushing back against the federal government because of language in a funding bill that would require the companies to report suspicious activity on their networks that could be terrorist-related.

The Senate Intelligence Committee included the provision in its annual intelligence-funding re-authoritzation bill, and it’s part of a federal effort to decrease the efficacy with which terrorist groups use social media and the Internet to recruit new members. The provision is designed to be similar to the federal requirements for policing child pornography.

Companies like Yahoo, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are pushing back, saying that the requirement would turn them into law-enforcement watchdogs, and that policing for terrorist activity is complex and requires a lot of context, unlike policing for child pornography, which can be identified using software.

The bill awaits debate on the Senate floor, but it likely won’t be taken up until after the Senate gets back from its summer break.

Do you think tech companies should be responsible for monitoring for suspicious activity/terrorism threats? What kind of a precedent would this set? If it’s not the responsibility of sites like Twitter and Facebook to police the content on their networks, whose is it?

Guests:

Emma Llansó, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology

Amos Guiora, professor of law and co-director of the Center for Global Justice at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah