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Ted P.
Republican TX 2

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  • Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015

    by Representative Ted Poe

    Posted on 2015-12-15

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    POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Representative Sherman, on the other side, for cosponsoring this legislation; and I want to thank Chairman Royce and Chairman Engel for being original cosponsors of this bill.

    Mr. Speaker, this is another piece of legislation that has come out of the Foreign Affairs Committee--bipartisan, unanimously voted on, and approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee, as much of our legislation is.

    Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank three staffers who have worked on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade--Luke Murry, Oren Adaki, and Jeff Dressler, who now works with the majority leader's staff. These three individuals know more about terrorism, I think, than any three people on the Hill, and I want to thank them for their work not only on this bill but on legislation in general.

    As has been said, Mr. Speaker, terrorists' use of social media has exploded over the last several years. A recent study by The Brookings Institute found that ISIS now uses 40,000 Twitter accounts. Terrorists use social media to do the following: to recruit others, to raise money, to spread propaganda, and to even train future fighters.

    This legislation deals with foreign terrorist organizations. We are not talking about a person who claims to be a terrorist or who we think is a terrorist. It is specifically dealing with foreign terrorist organizations that are designated by our government.

    The recipes for the bombs used at the Boston Marathon were in al Qaeda's magazine, which was posted on social media before the attack. The al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab live tweeted the attack on a Kenyan mall that killed 72 people. The al Qaeda branch in Yemen, known as AQAP, which is another terrorist organization, held a press conference on Twitter, allowing users to submit questions that were then answered by AQAP and were posted back on Twitter the following week--a conference call by terrorists. In October, ISIS issued a new instruction manual on how terrorists can use social media. Today, wannabe terrorists don't have to go to the battlefield--to Syria--to get trained. They can get trained online--like receiving college credits--on how to be a terrorist and on how to be a fighter.

    Nationwide, the FBI is currently investigating 900 potential lone wolf terrorists in the United States. The Internet and social media serve as their playbook to carry out attacks. Since March of 2014, 71 people in the United States have been charged with crimes related to ISIS.

    {time} 1615 Their backgrounds are very different, but nearly all of them had spent time online voicing their support for ISIS. Later, they were arrested after their online posts drew some attention by the FBI.

    In 2011, as the chairman has said, the administration released a report on countering violent extremists that recognized that online radicalization was a growing problem. The administration promised a strategy of how we can deal with this. Four years later, unfortunately, we don't have a strategy, and we don't have a plan. This is a problem because individual agencies are making their own unilateral decisions.

    This week, we learned that the Department of Homeland Security did not review the social media posts of Tashfeen Malik, who was granted a fiancee visa, but posted her radical views on social media prior to obtaining the visa.

    The State Department does not know how to effectively counter terrorist messaging because it does not have the expertise of the intelligence community. The intelligence community approaches social media as a ``capture everything'' because it has not been made clear what it can do and what it cannot do. The FBI does not know how far it should push social media companies to prohibit them from allowing terrorist organizations' content on their sites.

    So we must have a comprehensive strategy before we can effectively defeat the enemy on the cyber battlefield. Mr. Speaker, all U.S. departments really must be singing the same song on the same page in the hymnal about how to defeat foreign terrorist organizations that use social media--American social media companies.

    I will say this: Facebook has done a fairly decent job of bringing down terrorist sites, and Facebook has seen a drop in the number of terrorists that try to use their site, but not all social media companies have been as responsive to terrorism.

    Mr. Speaker, we already have technology that is used to make sure that child pornography is not posted online. Thanks to Hany Farid, the chairman of the computer science department at Dartmouth College, who invented a technology that is used with Microsoft. He said that we can use that same protocol that we do to bring down child pornography to bring down social media sites that deal with foreign terrorist organizations' propaganda and their spreading of murder. Here is what he said: ``There's no fundamental technology or engineering limitation. This is a business or policy decision. Unless the companies have decided that they just can't be bothered.'' So that is his opinion on how we can use this same protocol. This can be done. We can use the same protocol, and we can bring down those foreign terrorist organization sites.

    This is not a free speech issue--that has been discussed, and some are concerned about that--because we are dealing specifically with foreign terrorist organizations. The Supreme Court has already ruled regarding that issue in 2010 in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project that a foreign terrorist organization does not have constitutional rights in the United States under the First Amendment. So this is not a problem.

    In this 21st century fight against terrorists who are sophisticated and tech savvy, we have to defeat these organizations on all the battlefields: overseas, over here, and online.

    And that is just the way it is.

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