SIIA Cautions Against Social Media Alert Bill

Says terrorist attacks should not lead to more surveillance
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The Software and Information Industry Association is all a-Twitter about the news that Sen. Dianne Feinstein is planning to introduce a bill "requiring social media platforms to alert federal officials about 'online terrorist activity,'" saying the bill would "do more harm than good."

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was asked at an oversight hearing last month if the FCC could shut down social media sites that endorse violence. He said that was beyond the commission's authority, though he pledged to talk to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about the issue in his "bully pulpit" role (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/wheeler-zuckerberg-yet-...). An FCC source says that conversation happened before Thanksgiviing.

A source in the senator's office confirmed such a bill was in the works, but that the specifics had not been set in stone.

“The desire to do something, particularly in the wake of recent attacks, should not lead Congress to put more innocent people under government surveillance, without any evidence it would make us safer," said SIIA SVP Mark MacCarthy. "The private sector is already working closely with law enforcement to keep Americans safe, but that goal could actually be undermined by mandatory private sector reporting requirements."

Per those, as-yet-determined specifics, MacCarthy warns against "requiring social media to simply turn over information on its users to the government, based on a vague determination of what constitutes a ‘terrorist activity.’”

For its part, Facebook "clarified" back in March in an update to its community standards, is that no organization involved in "terrorist activity or organized criminal activity" can have a Facebook page, in addition to removing any content that "expresses support for groups that are involved in [that] violent or criminal behavior. Supporting or praising leaders of those same organizations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed."

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