Burr, Feinstein introduce online terrorist activity reporting legislation

Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require technology companies to report online terrorist activity to law enforcement.

The proposed legislation – the Requiring Reporting of Online Terrorist Activity Act – would not require companies to monitor customers to find terrorist activity. Instead, companies that become aware of any terrorist activity by their customers, including attack planning, recruitment or distribution of terrorist material, would be required to report such information to law enforcement.

The reporting provision of the act is modeled after a law requiring technology companies to report online child pornography when they become aware of it.

“Terror groups have become adept at taking advantage of social media platforms to spread their message,” Burr said. “Social media is one part of a large puzzle that law enforcement and intelligence officials must piece together to prevent future attacks. It’s critical that Congress works together to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence officials have the tools available to keep Americans safe. The stakes have never been higher and having cooperation with these outlets will help save lives here and abroad.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the legislation in June as part of the annual intelligence authorization bill. The act was then removed from the bill, however, so that underlying legislation could move through the Senate. The newly introduced legislation’s requirements remain unchanged from those that were unanimously approved by the committee earlier this year.

“We’re in a new age where terrorist groups like ISIL are using social media to reinvent how they recruit and plot attacks,” Feinstein said. “That information can be the key to identifying and stopping terrorist recruitment or a terrorist attack, but we need help from technology companies. This bill doesn’t require companies to take any additional actions to discover terrorist activity, it merely requires them to report such activity to law enforcement when they come across it. Congress needs to do everything we can to help intelligence and law enforcement agencies identify and prevent terrorist attacks, and this bill is a step in the right direction.”

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