Could Twitter stop the next terrorist attack?


dpa, Soeren Stache/ AP

In this Feb. 2, 2013, file photo, a smartphone display shows the Twitter logo.

Friday, July 24, 2015|10:57 a.m.

WASHINGTON– Social media giants consisting of Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and Google are pushing back versus Senate legislation that would need them to alert federal authorities of any terrorist activity, according to market and government officials.

In private meetings on Capitol Hillside, industry officials have told legislators and congressional personnel that they already prohibit grisly content like beheadings and alert law enforcement if they think someone might get hurt, as quickly as they understand a threat.

However tech officials also said they worry that the suggested legislation is too broad and would potentially put business on the hook legally if they miss a tweet, video or blog that hints of an attack. They said the outcome would probably be a deluge of suggestions to police, making it tougher for the government to find better information.

Those talked to by The Associated Press spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing argument over the legislation.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is backing the legislation, says requiring social media business to tip off law enforcement to a pending terrorist attack makes sense.

“The FBI and the knowledge community have actually made it generously clear that the terrorist risk is severe and increasing, and that those directing, inspiring and carrying out attacks make heavy use of social networks websites,” Feinstein told the AP in an emailed statement. “This arrangement will assist get potentially actionable info to the firms responsible for preventing attacks, without requiring companies to take any steps to monitor their websites they aren’t already taking.”

The tech market in 2013 dealt with a public relations nightmare after former government analyst Edward Snowden leaked information of a massive government surveillance program that depend on their cooperation. Business authorities stated the law offered them no option but to supply consumer information and comply with gag orders that prevented business from talking about it. Still, numerous consumers and Web lobbyists raged that U.S. businesses had enabled the government to spy on their customers, in many cases even charging the government administrative charges to do it.

Since then, the tech industry has led an aggressive public push to limit monitoring demands and enhance openness, adopting more advanced file encryption methods regardless of opposition from the Justice Department. Their primary argument has been that consumers won’t make use of technology they do not trust, and that unneeded monitoring would injure the market.

At the exact same time, popular social media sites have become important in helping terrorist groups expand their impact, in spite of prevalent industry policies versus publishing or promoting terrorist-related material.

The Islamic State group and similar groups have relied heavily on Twitter and Facebook to hire followers, while militants post beheading videos on sites like Google’s YouTube, offering an image the chance to go viral before being closed down. In 2013, al-Shabab live tweeted its Westgate shopping center massacre, opening up new feeds even after Twitter shut others down.

“This is not your grandfather’s al-Qaida,” FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. “This is a group of individuals utilizing social media to reach thousands and countless fans, find the ones who might be interested in dedicating acts of violence, then moving them to an (end-to-end) encrypted messaging app.”

The same week as Comey’s testimony, the Senate Intelligence Committee supporteded Feinstein’s proposal that would require companies that spot terrorist activity on their networks to alert police.

Feinstein’s provision, part of the knowledge permission bill that still needs to be authorized by the Senate, is virtually identical to the law requiring business to report kid pornography. One exception is that Feinstein’s provision doesn’t say whether or how a business would be penalized if it fails to report terrorist activity, whereas a tech company can be fined for “purposefully and willfully” failing to report an image of kid pornography.

Tech officials state identifying exactly what constitutes kid pornography is much easier to do since the process is more unbiased. A criminal photograph can be digitally analyzed and designated a special identifier that be used to find comparable images across networks.

But often, figuring out terrorist activity needs more context. The image of an Islamic State flag, for example, would appear in a news article or video in addition to terrorist propaganda.

Monika Bickert, head of policy management at Facebook, said the social media website shares the government’s objective of keeping terrorist material off the website.

“Our policies on this are crystal clear: We do not permit terrorist groups to utilize Facebook, and people are not allowed to promote or support these groups on Facebook,” she said. “We eliminate this terrorist content as soon as we end up being aware of it.”

Your home didn’t consist of a comparable arrangement in its variation of the intelligence expense. A spokesman for House Knowledge Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., declined to comment on the concern.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Residence knowledge panel, stated there’s “no question” the Islamic State group utilizes social media to share propoganda and hire boxers. Schiff, D-Calif., said Congress must deal with the tech industry “to identify the most reliable response.”

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