House Republicans Target Social Media That Harbor Terrorist Groups (Dreamstime)
By Peter Malbin | Tuesday, 29 March 2022 12:49 PM
A new piece of House legislation, the No Publicity for Terrorists Act, would mandate social media platforms remove terrorist organizations and their supporters or face a $50,000 fine for every infraction.
The Act is spearheaded by Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., who wrote the bill with Rep. Bob Good, R-Va.
"There is no excuse or justification for Big Tech to give known terrorists a dangerous platform," Good wrote in a statement. "This is especially egregious given Big Tech's track record of regularly and unjustifiably censoring conservative voices like President [Donald] Trump, and members of Congress."
Republicans have been highly critical of social media platforms, accusing them of bias and silencing prominent conservative voices. The bill is aimed at holding these companies accountable for what Cawthorn described as their double standard in enforcing community guidelines, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
"They claim President Trump is a danger to public discourse, but allow terrorist organizations, hate groups, and dictators to remain on their platforms?" Cawthorn said.
Major platforms from Twitter to Facebook have long faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill for allowing their social sites to be used by extremist groups that promote violence against the United States, Israel, and other American allies, the Free Beacon observed.
In a study from the University of Haifa, Israel, Gabriel Weimann found nearly 90% of organized terrorism activities on the internet takes place via social media. According to Weimann, terror groups use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and internet forums to spread their messages, recruit members, and gather intelligence.
Social media tools are cheap and accessible, facilitate quick, broad dissemination of messages, and allow for unfettered communication with an audience without the filter or "selectivity" of mainstream news outlets, the study found.
Although Twitter bans the accounts of Middle East terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei, for example, has an active account that routinely encourages violence against Israel and threatens U.S. interests in the Middle East. Facebook has permitted terrorist factions to use the platform to promote violence.
The bill would amend federal law to mandate that social media companies, in particular, police their platforms and remove any account promoting extremist rhetoric. The account or accounts would have to be removed within 24 hours of being discovered, according to the bill. If a social media company knows of an extremist account and does not remove it within this time period, it would face a $50,000 civil fine. This includes accounts that are linked to or maintained by designated terror groups.
The proposed law is written to include large social media companies such as Twitter and smaller, less popular ones.
Additionally, executives at social media companies that are required to file quarterly reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission could face fines or prison time if they do not comply with the proposed law.
With Democrats in control of the House, it is unlikely the bill will be able to garner the support needed to advance, but legislation of this nature might become a priority if Republicans retake the House, according to the Free Beacon.