On the heels of a massive scandal in which Facebook gave political consultants access to members’ personal data, there’s a new charge that social media organizations are violating an anti-terror law.
Uzi Shaya, a former senior officer in the Israeli intelligence community, writes for the Gatestone Institute that the “failure by the social media networks to enforce the prevention of terror-related content on their sites is, in fact, a direct violation of the Antiterrorism Act and the Material Supply Statutes.”
Further, the “general public is also in its right to have the protections of the Community Decency Act of 1996 cover content on social media,” he writes.
“The nature of Islamic terrorism throughout the world has changed in recent years,” he explained. “Alongside the established and organized groups – such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even ISIS – a new and different type terror has been created, one that is nourished ideologically, spiritually, and intellectually by these groups, yet shows no connection – organizationally or operationally – to them.”
The new terrorist is the “lone wolf,” an individual propelled by propaganda to “commit acts of terror without being a member of an organized group or cell.”
Such apparently was the case in Florida last week when police reported a teenage Muslim spending the night with friends stabbed three people, killing one, “because of his Muslim faith.”
The suspect read the Quran “to give him courage to carry out his intentions,” according to an affidavit. Evidence also showed the attacker watched “extreme” jihad videos that “encourage death to nonbelievers.”
Shaya writes that the one unifying element in such cases is “social media.”
“Social media networks enable any individual to have his voice and his opinions heard so that his proclamations can resonate with audiences that are far-reaching,” he writes.
“Unfortunately, the existing freedoms on social media have been manipulated by terrorist groups to create a threat that poses a clear and present danger to citizens around the world,” Shaya says.
“Terrorist groups around the world have recognized the potential of social media and these networks have become an essential component – in fact, an unhindered course of action – in allowing the global terrorist networks greatly to expand the operations of terror groups and their supporters worldwide, and affect billions of people around the world. These operations and activities include disseminating ‘open messages,’ the recruitment of new members and supporters, but most importantly to advertise and promote the essence of their terror movement and the glorified aftermath of attacks that they have perpetrated. In the process, the terrorist groups can reach a potential army of a million possible soldiers without any direct connection to them.”
The social media megacompanies “under the guise of protecting free speech,” have failed to address terrorism, Shaya contends.
He says the companies “have only marginally addressed the issue of limiting terrorist recruitment and incitement on their platforms.”
The social media companies have both the means and ability to limit terror promotions, Shaya said, but they do not.
“The social media networks continue to permit terrorist groups to use their services openly and brazenly to promote their groups and their hate-filled doctrines. The propaganda arms of many terrorist organizations continue to use the social media networks, primarily Facebook, to spread their messages to ever expanding audiences. Organizations and individuals who are designated as terrorists on U.S. and international watch-lists are able flagrantly to open social media accounts even though virtually all the social media companies are headquartered in the United States.”
The Times of London reported that ISBA, an organization of British advertisers who spend hundreds of millions of pounds each year on Facebook, was demanding answers from Facebook over its latest scandal.
Some of its brands will not allow association with Facebook if user data was turned over to political companies that broker the information, the report said.
CNN interviewed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the issue:
He admitted his company was at fault and expressed his willingness to provide testimony to Congress on the dispute and suggested government regulation of Facebook might be warranted.
CNN said lawmakers in the U.S. and U.K. have called for Zuckerberg to testify before their legislative bodies in the five days since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted.
The data firm accessed information from about 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.
Facebook said the information was collected first by a professor for academic purposes but then was transferred to other parties for their use.