by Steve Miller
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Internet we now find that Big Brother is alive, well, and reading your messages.
A bill is working its way through the U.S. Senate, having just been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee, that would require social media sites to report what they consider to be terrorist activity.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider the definition of terrorism. According to the dictionary, it’s “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” In actuality, according to 18 U.S.C. § 2331, however, there is a more detailed version that is probably more suited to what the government is trying to accomplish.
Nevertheless, the US Government is asking private companies to spy on their customers and report suspicious activity. It’s not the first time this has happened. In Los Angeles and Sacramento, California, city ordinances required gun shops to keep a log of who was buying ammunition. The police then cross referenced the list with those who may be prohibited from owning a firearm, used the information to obtain search warrants, and effected multiple arrests. That’s okay if you believe the end justifies the means.
In the Soviet Union, citizens were required, not encouraged, but required, to report subversive activity lest they be complicit in the suspected subversive conduct simply by not acting. If your spouse or your child doing something suspicious, you were obligated to tell your local Communist party representative or suffer the same fate as the your errant family member, should they be caught.
This bill is being strongly encouraged by counter-terrorism officials. Of course, those guys are looking at a single, narrow, objective, which is to stop the bad guys. In the process of doing that, we have become what we hate. We have, once again, given up our privacy and our ability to say what’s on our mind without fear of reprisal from the government.
Do we really think the terrorists are stupid enough to broadcast their intentions on a media that they know to be closely monitored? Sure, they make noise and try to project their message to the masses but under our form of government they have every right to do that. As much as I despise the message and the mission of the so-called Islamic Jihad, I am not ready to give up my civil liberties to keep them quiet.
If social media companies are required to report suspicious activity, then there must be a consequence for not doing so. Jail time? Fines? Who gets prosecuted, the CEO? How does one define suspicious? How do you know there was suspicious activity unless it was actually reported?
“In our free American society, we shouldn’t require our social media providers to act as secret police. As bad as it may sound, we have an absolute right to talk about terrorism. We also have a right to talk about religion, racism, politics, bizarre toilet habits, Caitlyn Jenner’s makeup, or any other controversial topic that we choose to discuss – without monitoring or reprisal from our government.
Those who would like to see us with less rather than more freedom are exploiting the media hype about lone wolf, home-grown, terrorists. They’re making it seem rational and necessary.
Should a media provider become aware of a terrorist threat, they have a moral responsibility to make the authorities aware of it. That’s much difference than the legal requirement that’s being proposed by this bill.
Along these lines, Facebook has already published their policy, which reads: We remove content, disable accounts and work with law enforcement when we believe that there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety.
If that’s the case, then why do we need a Senate bill? I can think of many things that need to get through Congress that will actually accomplish something to benefit the American people.