Rep. Josh Gottheimer was joined by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in unveiling new bipartisan legislation designed to combat online terrorism.
The Online Terrorism Prevention Act will require regular disclosures when designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) utilize social media platforms, and will arm regulators with financial and criminal penalties for social media companies that fail to eliminate terrorists utilizing their networks.
“There is a constant spread of violent extremism, disinformation, foreign interference, and hate online that is undermining our democracy,” said Gottheimer in a press statement. “These forces continue to use platforms provided by U.S.-based social media companies to spread hate, promote terrorist propaganda, and recruit new members.”
Social Media Use Increases
Gottheimer, who began calling for the legislation as early as September 2020, and Fitzpatrick noted the legislation addressed an uptick in use of social media sites by FTOs, which use the platforms to recruit new members and spread their messages of hate and extremism.
In some cases, the platforms were used to raise funds for acts of terror utilizing cryptocurrencies, with the federal government seizing millions of dollars in Bitcoin tied to FTOs during 2020.
“They’re growing even more sophisticated and using digital assets like cryptocurrencies to finance their next attacks,” said Gottheimer. “With this new bipartisan legislation, we’re fighting back and combating these threats at every angle.”
A Prior Focus on Twitter
A prior bipartisan initiative spearheaded by Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick attempted to take Twitter to task by demanding CEO Jack Dorsey remove all content from FTOs on the platform.
The drive included FTOs and affiliated profiles, including Hamas and Hezbollah. Twitter suspended some content affiliated with FTOs in November 2019.
“By enforcing penalties on social media platforms, we will be able to address the growing presence of FTOs online and actively combat the spread of terrorist propaganda,” said Fitzpatrick.