Bipartisan Commission to Study Proliferation of Terrorist Content Online

October 22, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – A bill introduced Tuesday by the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security would establish a bipartisan commission of non-government experts to examine the ways social media and other online platforms have been exploited to promote and carry out acts of terrorism.

“Today, the unfortunate reality is that terrorists and other bad actors are spreading their violent ideologies online,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who introduced H.R. 4782, the National Commission on Online Platforms and Homeland Security Act.

“This past year, we saw one terrorist livestream his attack and far too many others post their hateful manifestos online,” he said. “Online platforms have struggled to respond to viral proliferation of such content.  The magnitude of the challenge demands that we bring experts together to develop effective approaches for companies to keep their platforms safe while promoting free speech and innovation on the internet. 

“By creating a bipartisan commission, this bill takes an important first step to making online platforms more secure.  I am proud to say it is a product of months of rigorous bipartisan engagement with civil rights and civil liberties groups, industry, and anti-violence organizations,” Thompson added.

If the legislation passes, the commission will also examine how free speech, privacy, civil rights and civil liberties have been impacted by online terrorist content and covert state influence campaigns, as well as the platforms’ responses to such content. 

Importantly, in furtherance of this targeted review, the commission will look at whether platforms have transparent, consistent, and equitable policies to enforce their rules and if these rules are enforced consistently and effectively, Thompson said.

The commission will prepare a written report at the end of its work, offering recommendations for how online platforms can address such dangerous content in a manner that promotes free speech and innovation.

As described in the bill, the commission will be chaired by an expert in privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties and will have members with expertise in these areas, as well as computer science and engineering, digital media and communications, online platform management, cybersecurity, information operations, and national security.

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Cedric Richmond, D-La.; Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J.; Max Rose, D-N.Y.; Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.; Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J.; Nanette Barragan, D-Calif.

The Act has been endorsed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Counter Extremism Project, and Jewish Federations of North America.

This bill will be marked up in Committee tomorrow, October 23rd. More info here.

H.R. 4782 Bill Text

Bill Fact Sheet

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