Feinstein Pushes For Facebook & Twitter to Fight Terrorism on Social Media
The Senate Intelligence Committee (SIC) is considering legislation that would require social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to let law enforcement know when “possible terrorist attacks” are posted on the internet.
The slippery slope these sites face includes inadvertently assisting terrorist groups in expanding their influence by the nature of social media use despite their strict policies against posting terror-related content.
Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and others are protesting the language of the bill because it is too broad and “would potentially put companies on the hook legally if they miss a tweet, video or blog that hints of an attack.”
Speaking to Congressional staff, tech industry representatives have discussed how they are banning content that displays “beheadings” and inform law enforcement when posts by users imply that “someone might get hurt” but social media corporations are concerned that they will be held legally accountable for “missing a tweet, video or blog that hints of an attack”.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, supporter of the bill, said : “The FBI and the intelligence community have made it abundantly clear that the terrorist threat is severe and increasing, and that those directing, inspiring and carrying out attacks make heavy use of social media sites. This provision will help get potentially actionable information to the agencies responsible for preventing attacks, without requiring companies to take any steps to monitor their sites they aren’t already taking.”
The provision is eerily similar to current laws that require tech corporations to surveil users for and report child pornography activity. However, Feinstein’s version is unclear as to whether or how a corporation could be punished if it fails to report terrorist postings.
Under the guise of “knowingly and willfully” allowing terrorist-like postings, Facebook or Twitter could be fined an undetermined amount.
Feinstein admitted: “Twitter, FB and YouTube all, as I understand it, remove content on their sites that come to their attention if it violates their terms of service, including terrorism.”
Corresponding with Feinstein’s proposed legislation, in 2013 the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) outlined how necessary social media is to the investigative and case-building process.
The IACP asserts that “social media is a valuable investigative tool when seeking evidence or information about individuals or cases including missing persons, wanted persons, gang participation and recruitment, and crimes perpetrated online such as cyberbullying or identity theft.”
Workshops are offered by the IACP to train officers in utilizing “social media for intelligence and investigative activities.”
The IACP is also interested in how news is disseminated on Facebook since it was determined that 47% of adults get their news on social media sites.
Indeed, Facebook and the Chicago Police Department have been collaborating to control access to content on the internet if the user “is determined [to] have posted what is deemed criminal content.”
Technology is used to facilitate this relationship between social media sites and law enforcement. One example is Emotive , a computer program developed by a team of researchers from Loughborough University (LBU)that can scan an estimated 2,000 tweets per second and access the mood of a nation using Twitter.
Emotive will help governments gage the propensity of a society toward civil unrest while pointing toward the identification of possible threats to public safety.
The LBU Center for Information Management stated that this new system will “extract a direct expression of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, shame and confusion from each tweet.”
Researchers explained that by “using the Emotive software to geographically evaluate any mass mood could help police to track potential criminal behavior or threats to public safety. It may be able to guide national policy on the best way to react to major incidents.”
Tom Jackson, lead author and head of the team at LBU said: “Public postings through social media gave a very accurate real-time record of how and what people were feeling.”