Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New Bill to Require Tech Companies to Report Terrorists


Terrorists have been increasingly using social media as a communication and recruitment tool.

Last week, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and left 21 injured in a gun attack in a social service center in San Bernardino, California. Malik had pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group in a Facebook post.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama urged high-tech companies to help combat terror threats and make it harder for terrorists to use technology for their purposes.

Reporting Requirement

On Tue., Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have introduced a short (two Sections) bill that would basically require “[w]hoever, while engaged in providing an electronic communication service or a remote computing service to the public… obtains actual knowledge of any terrorist activity… shall, as soon as reasonably possible, provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activities.”

Companies would only have to report when they have actual knowledge of any facts or circumstances from which there is an apparent violation that involves distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction.  Sen. Feinstein explained that 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.”

Protection of Privacy

The bill states that there is no requirement for the provider of an electronic communication service or of a remote computing service to monitor any user or to monitor the content of any communication.


Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) opposes the bill because it does not define "terrorist activity" to be reported, so there will be a “perverse incentive for companies to avoid looking for terrorist content on their own networks, because if they saw something and failed to report it they would be breaking the law, but if they stuck their heads in the sand and avoided looking for terrorist content they would be absolved of responsibility.” The net result being less reporting of terrorist activity, not more, according to Sen. Wyden.