Congress Summons Tech Companies To Explain Themselves Over Terrorist Content

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Congress announced Tuesday that it is summoning tech executives for an upcoming hearing focusing on terrorists using their respective platforms and services.

The hearing, titled “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?,” will “examine the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the Internet,” according to a press release from the presiding Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The invited big tech companies include Facebook, YouTube (which is owned by Google), and Twitter, in which each one’s head of public policy will be the representative, known officially as a witness.

All three massive firms have boasted of their work to combat terrorism exploitation.

YouTube, for example, somewhat recently purged thousands of videos including or from Anwar al-Awlaki, the now-deceased prominent extremist cleric who was key in enlisting others for his and others’ evil endeavors.

Facebook said in November that 99 percent of terrorist content on the platform — like material from or related to ISIS or al-Qaida — is removed before anyone else flags it first. (RELATED: UK To Charge People Repeatedly Viewing Terrorist Content 15 Years In Jail)

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other automation is a major contributing factor for the seemingly high success rate, according to Facebook.

Twitter claimed in August, 2016 to have terminated more than 235,000 accounts associated with terrorism, as content is not the only contributing problem, but also communication.

It’s not clear yet if the subject of forceful legislation will be broached during the hearing, but the laws on the books shield such firms from any legal liability. After several families of victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016 filed a federal civil suit against Twitter, Facebook, and Google, The Daily Caller News Foundation spoke to several lawyers and legal experts.

They all said in some way that the lawsuits were weak, if not unfounded, because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which “provides that interactive computer services are not to be treated as publisher or speaker of material posted by another information content provider,” according to Daniel Lyons, associate professor at Boston College Law School.

Also, “the First Amendment serves as a significant barrier,” said Josh Blackman, an associate professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 17.


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