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Senators Drop Bid to Force Facebook, Twitter to Report 'Terrorist Activity'

Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Ore.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Ore. // Susan Walsh/AP

The Sen­ate has aban­doned a con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sion that would have forced so­cial me­dia sites such as Face­book and Twit­ter to re­port any “ter­ror­ist activ­ity” to gov­ern­ment au­thor­it­ies.

Ter­ror­ist groups such as IS­IS have in­creas­ingly turned to so­cial me­dia to push out their mes­sage and gain re­cruits. But the lead­ers of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee stripped the lan­guage out of in­tel­li­gence reau­thor­iz­a­tion le­gis­la­tion Monday due to the ob­jec­tions of Sen. Ron Wyden, an Ore­gon Demo­crat. Wyden, who ar­gued that so­cial me­dia sites shouldn’t be re­quired to po­lice their users’ speech, had threatened to block the bill from reach­ing the Sen­ate floor un­less the pro­vi­sion was re­moved.  

“Go­ing after ter­ror­ist re­cruit­ment and activ­ity on­line is a ser­i­ous mis­sion that de­mands a ser­i­ous re­sponse from our law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies,” Wyden said in a state­ment, adding that he will now al­low a vote on the in­tel­li­gence bill. “So­cial me­dia com­pan­ies aren’t qual­i­fied to judge which posts amount to ‘ter­ror­ist activ­ity,’ and they shouldn’t be forced against their will to cre­ate a Face­book Bur­eau of In­vest­ig­a­tions to po­lice their users’ speech.”

But Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat and the main au­thor of the pro­vi­sion, isn’t giv­ing up on the is­sue. Tom Mentzer, a spokes­man for the Cali­for­nia Demo­crat, said she “re­grets” hav­ing to drop the lan­guage to help en­sure a vote on the “vi­tal” in­tel­li­gence le­gis­la­tion, which provides the leg­al basis for an ar­ray of na­tion­al se­cur­ity pro­grams.

“Sen. Fein­stein still be­lieves it’s im­port­ant to block ter­ror­ists’ use of so­cial me­dia to re­cruit and in­cite vi­ol­ence and will contin­ue to work on achiev­ing that goal,” Mentzer em­phas­ized.

The In­ter­net As­so­ci­ation, which rep­res­ents Face­book, Twit­ter, Google, and oth­er Web gi­ants, had also lob­bied law­makers to drop the pro­pos­al.

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