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Susan B.
Republican IN 5

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  • Social Media Working Group Act of 2015

    by Representative Susan W. Brooks

    Posted on 2015-02-02

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    BROOKS of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 623) to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize the Department of Homeland Security to establish a social media working group, and for other purposes.

    The Clerk read the title of the bill.

    The text of the bill is as follows: H.R. 623 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Social Media Working Group Act of 2015''.


    (a) In General.--Title III of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 181 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section: ``SEC. 318. SOCIAL MEDIA WORKING GROUP.

    ``(a) Establishment.--The Secretary shall establish within the Department a social [[Page H681]] media working group (in this section referred to as the `Group').

    ``(b) Purpose.--In order to enhance information sharing between the Department and appropriate stakeholders, the Group shall provide guidance and best practices to the emergency preparedness and response community on the use of social media technologies before, during, and after a terrorist attack or other emergency.

    ``(c) Membership.-- ``(1) In general.--The Under Secretary for Science and Technology shall serve as the permanent chairperson of the Group, and shall designate, on a rotating basis, a representative from a State or local government who is a member of the Group to serve as co-chairperson. The Under Secretary shall establish term limits for individuals appointed to the Group pursuant to paragraph (2). Membership of the Group shall be composed of a cross section of subject matter experts from Federal, State, local, tribal, and nongovernmental organization practitioners, including representatives from the following entities: ``(A) The Office of Public Affairs of the Department.

    ``(B) The Office of the Chief Information Officer of the Department.

    ``(C) The Privacy Office of the Department.

    ``(D) The Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    ``(E) The Office of Disability Integration and Coordination of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    ``(F) The American Red Cross.

    ``(G) The Forest Service.

    ``(H) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    ``(I) The United States Geological Survey.

    ``(J) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    ``(2) Additional members.--The Under Secretary for Science and Technology shall appoint, on a rotating basis, qualified individuals to the Group. The total number of such additional members shall-- ``(A) be equal to or greater than the total number of regular members under paragraph (1); and ``(B) include-- ``(i) not fewer than three representatives from the private sector; and ``(ii) representatives from-- ``(I) State, local, and tribal entities, including from-- ``(aa) law enforcement; ``(bb) fire services; ``(cc) emergency management; and ``(dd) public health entities; ``(II) universities and academia; and ``(III) non-profit disaster relief organizations.

    ``(d) Consultation With Non-Members.--To the extent practicable, the Group shall work with existing bodies in the public and private sectors to carry out subsection (b).

    ``(e) Meetings.-- ``(1) Initial meeting.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this section, the Group shall hold its initial meeting. Such initial meeting may be held virtually.

    ``(2) Subsequent meetings.--After the initial meeting under paragraph (1), the Group shall meet at least twice each year, or at the call of the Chairperson. Such subsequent meetings may be held virtually.

    ``(f) Nonapplicability of FACA.--The Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) shall not apply to the Group.

    ``(g) Reports.--Not later than March 30 of each year, the Group shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes the following: ``(1) A review of current and emerging social media technologies being used to support preparedness and response activities related to terrorist attacks and other emergencies.

    ``(2) A review of best practices and lessons learned on the use of social media during the response to terrorist attacks and other emergencies that occurred during the period covered by the report at issue.

    ``(3) Recommendations to improve the Department's use of social media for emergency management purposes.

    ``(4) Recommendations to improve public awareness of the type of information disseminated through social media, and how to access such information, during a terrorist attack or other emergency.

    ``(5) Recommendations to improve information sharing among the Department and its components.

    ``(6) Recommendations to improve information sharing among State and local governments.

    ``(7) A review of available training for Federal, State, local, and tribal officials on the use of social media in response to a terrorist attack or other emergency.

    ``(8) A summary of coordination efforts with the private sector to discuss and resolve legal, operational, technical, privacy, and security concerns.''.

    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of contents in section 1(b) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 317 the following new item: ``Sec. 318. Social media working group.''.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from Indiana (Mrs. Brooks) and the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton) each will control 20 minutes.

    The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Indiana.

    General Leave Mrs. BROOKS of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous materials on H.R. 623.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Indiana? There was no objection.

    Mrs. BROOKS of Indiana. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 623, the Social Media Working Group Act of 2015.

    Social media is transforming the way the Nation is communicating before, during, and after terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other emergencies. There are countless examples from recent events of how citizens are turning to Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram for public safety information, to comfort survivors, and to request assistance.

    For example, during the height of the most recent winter storm Juno in the Northeast, there were over 20,000 posts using the hashtag #blizzardof2015.

    A quarter of Americans--let me repeat that--a quarter of Americans got information about the devastating terrorist attack at the 2013 Boston Marathon from Facebook and Twitter.

    Immediately following that attack and during the manhunt, the Boston Police Department utilized social media as a way to communicate with and solicit information from citizens and visitors.

    In fact, the first official announcement that Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been captured was not through a traditional press conference, but it was through the Boston Police Department's Twitter account. That post was retweeted more than 135,000 times.

    These examples prove that social media has become one of the primary ways we share information.

    In the 113th Congress, I served as the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications with the gentleman from New Jersey as my ranking member. Our subcommittee held two hearings that focused on this new phenomenon, and we learned that while the Nation is making great strides in this area, gaps and challenges remain.

    One of the key takeaways from these hearings was that during and after a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other emergency, there is still a need for better communication between the public sector and the private sector, specifically with how we utilize social media as a communication tool.

    Last year, I introduced this bill, along with Ranking Member Payne, Chairman McCaul, Representative Palazzo, and Representative Swalwell, to address this issue; and I am pleased now to reintroduce the bill this Congress.

    Mr. Speaker, H.R. 623 addresses the issues we heard in our hearings by authorizing and enhancing the Department of Homeland Security's Virtual Social Media Working Group to ensure information sharing between the Department and appropriate stakeholders and the leveraging of best practices.

    Currently, the Virtual Social Media Working Group, which is made up mostly of State and local officials, is doing great work in developing guidance documents on how to utilize social media during disasters. In fact, it produced a lessons learned paper on social media usage during Hurricane Sandy.

    This bill will increase the working group's stakeholder participation, particularly among the private sector and Federal response agencies, thereby creating a Whole Community dialogue on this issue.

    The bill will require this group to submit an annual report to Congress highlighting best practices, lessons learned, and any recommendations. Finally, this bill will require the group to meet in person or virtually at least twice a year, and it will not be a financial burden on the Department.

    In today's day and age, when new social media platforms and technologies can change the game almost instantly, we must ensure our critical first responders are nimble enough to adapt to an ever- changing landscape. This group is one way to help facilitate this.

    [[Page H682]] The House passed this bill last Congress with strong bipartisan support. I now want to thank Chairman Shuster and Chairman Barletta of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for working with the Committee on Homeland Security and me to get this bill to the floor today.

    Mr. Speaker, I urge Members to join me in supporting this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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