Washington—Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) today introduced the Requiring Reporting of Online Terrorist Activity Act, a bill to require 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. Rather, it requires that if companies become aware of terrorist activity such as attack planning, recruitment or distribution of terrorist material, they must report that information to law enforcement.
This provision is modeled on a law that requires technology companies to report online child pornography when they become aware of it.
“We’re in a new age where terrorist groups like ISIL are using social media to reinvent how they recruit and plot attacks,” Senator Feinstein said. “That information can be the key to identifying and stopping terrorist recruitment or a terrorist attack, but we need help from technology companies. This 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. Congress needs to do everything we can to help intelligence and law enforcement agencies identify and prevent terrorist attacks, and this bill is a step in the right direction.”
“Terror groups have become adept at taking advantage of social media platforms to spread their message,” Senator Burr said. “Social media is one part of a large puzzle that law enforcement and intelligence officials must piece together to prevent future attacks. It’s critical that Congress works together to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence officials have the tools available to keep Americans safe. The stakes have never been higher and having cooperation with these outlets will help save lives here and abroad.”
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 in order to allow the underlying legislation to move through the Senate. The requirements of this standalone bill are the same as those approved unanimously by the committee earlier this year.
According to press reports, around the time of last week’s deadly attack in San Bernardino, Calif., one of the shooters, Tashfeen Malik, posted her allegiance to ISIL on her Facebook page. Facebook removed the account because the act was a violation of the company’s rules.
Prior to his death, Syrian-based terrorist Junaid Hussein contacted and radicalized individuals and incited attempted terrorist attacks in the United States and the United Kingdom. He regularly used social media sites like Twitter and switched among multiple user accounts to continue posting after Twitter shut down individual accounts.