For immediate release | Friday, February 27, 2015

Counter Extremism Project Calls For INA Section 219 Prohibitions On "Material Support" For Terror Groups To Apply To Social Media Companies And Users

CEP applauds Rep. Ted Poe's effort to prevent radical extremists from misusing social media platforms for terror

CEP calls on all elected officials to join Chairman Poe in the application of the material support prohibitions in the context of social media

 

 

The Counter Extremism Project applauds and supports Rep. Ted Poe in his effort to prevent the hijacking and weaponization of Twitter and other social media platforms by extremist groups to radicalize, encourage violence and commit cyber jihad.  Chairman Poe has proposed that Federal law enforcement authorities apply Section 219 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) to those who misuse social media platforms to support designated terror organizations and to those companies that fail to act to prevent such misuse.  CEP President Fran Townsend and CEO Ambassador Mark Wallace said:

"Social media has been weaponized by violent extremists.  Our gravest domestic security threat is the propagandizing, terrorizing, calls to action and recruitment by foreign terror organizations on social media platforms that reach into our neighborhoods.  There can be no doubt that such social media platforms provide essential "material support" to terror groups.  Social media companies must do more to prevent such misuse and Federal law enforcement authorities should aggressively pursue those online users and companies that fail to act pursuant to the "material support" prohibitions of the INA.  All elected officials should join Chairman Poe in this call to action."

Chairman Poe stated in plain language the grave issue confronting the United States and its allies as extremist groups misuse ubiquitous social media platforms and proposed concrete solutions:

"If social media is being used to help radicalize thousands of people and raise millions of dollars from many more, the question all this raises is this: Why is no one shutting them down? Because American companies aren't. And nor is the American government....To put it bluntly, private American companies should not be operating as the propaganda megaphone of foreign terrorist organizations....So what needs to change?

"For a start, social media companies themselves need to do more. It is not good enough to only pay attention when bad press threatens a company's public image after something truly horrific is posted online. Instead, companies not only have a public responsibility but a legal obligation to do more. Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that it is unlawful to provide a designated foreign terrorist organization with "material support or resources," including "any property, tangible or intangible, or services."...What's more, most social media companies already have terms of service with prohibition of threats of violence that would preclude terrorist use of their platforms. But companies need to do a better job of enforcing their own terms. The lack of child pornography or stolen copyrighted material on social media platforms -- content that is quickly removed if it appears at all -- demonstrates what these companies can do....With this in mind, they would do well to consider having dedicated teams that remove terrorist content, and also streamline reporting processes for offensive content so users can easily report terrorist use on their platforms. Companies have the technology and the resources to crack down on terrorists' use of their platform; they just need the motivation to act."

CEP's CEO Ambassador Wallace continued:

"CEP's #DigitalDisruption crowdsourcing campaign has identified hundreds of examples of extremists abusing Twitter to make direct threats of violence against individuals, yet Twitter refuses to take action.  At a Jan. 27 hearing before Chairman Poe's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, we proposed six immediate and practical steps Twitter should take:

•             Trusted Reporting Status - Twitter should grant trusted reporting status to government and groups like ours to swiftly identify and ensure the expeditious removal of extremists online.

•             Streamlined Reporting - The reporting process on Twitter is long and cumbersome. A more accessible reporting protocol should be added for users to report suspected extremist activity.

•             Policy on Extremism - America's leading tech companies should adopt a policy statement that extremist activities will not be tolerated.

•             Verified Accounts - Twitter has a system where people can verify their accounts. This concept can be the foundation for a tiered system whereby unverified accounts are restricted and subject to streamlined review.

•             Security Technology - There must be a technological solution related to security that most Twitter users would accept as a fair tradeoff for lives saved.  

•             Transparency - When one of the most influential and pro-ISIS Twitter accounts, ShamiWitness, was publicly revealed to be an Indian businessman it shook the cyber-jihadi network. He immediately stopped his online jihad. Twitter should reveal detailed information - including names -- of the most egregious cyber-jihadis.  The most egregious cyber-jihadis do not deserve an anonymous platform from which to spew hate and incite terror and murder.

"Twitter has failed to respond or to take any of the foregoing suggested action. We stand ready to work with government and social media companies to stop misuse and find the right mix of remedies that attacks this growing problem while protecting our values and liberties."

Please contact CEP at [email protected] for all requests for interviews.

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About The Counter Extremism Project (CEP)

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideology. Led by a renowned group of former world leaders and former diplomats it will aim to combat extremism by pressuring financial support networks, countering the narrative of extremists and their online recruitment, and advocating for strong laws, policies and regulations.