ISPs will be US spooks’ eyes and ears

big-brother-1984The Senate Intelligence Committee secretly voted on June 24 in favour of legislation requiring ISPs and social media sites to report suspected terrorist activities.

The legislation was approved in a closed-door hearing, and is “classified” but will be made public when the law heads to the Senate.

The FBI is apparently worried about American teens being susceptible to the Islamic State’s online recruitment tactics. Twitter has removed tens of thousands of these terror propaganda accounts, which violate its terms of service.

Ironically the legislation is modelled after a 2008 law, the Protect Our Children Act. That measure requires Internet companies to report images of child porn, and information identifying who trades it, to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

That quasi-government agency then alerts either the FBI or local law enforcement about the identities of online child pornographers.

This confirms the fear that laws that start out “protecting children” end up being used for something nastier. What it means is that ISPs and social networks will have to scan ordinary people’s mail and messages looking for evidence of IS or similar activities. It will be similar to what the US government was doing before, but was ruled illegal.

The bill does not demand that online companies remove content, requires Internet firms that obtain actual knowledge of any terrorist activity to provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity.

The terrorist activity could be a tweet, a YouTube video, an account, or a communication.

Twitter, Google, and Facebook haven’t publicly taken a position on the new legislation, probably because they have not read it yet and only heard about it through the Washington Post.