Senator Feinstein Revives Stupid Idea That Internet Companies Are 'Materially Supporting Terrorism' If ISIS Members Use Their Sites

from the not-how-it-works dept

Last year, FBI Director James Comey floated a ridiculous idea that retweeting ISIS tweets could be seen as “material support” for terrorism. Indeed, an American teenager got sentenced to 11 years in jail for pro-ISIS tweets, with the “material support” being that some of those tweets linked to pages that taught people how to use Bitcoin. Some have taken this idea even further, and argued that internet companies can be slapped with “material support for terrorism” claims or charges if they let ISIS members or other terrorists make use of their services.

This is ridiculous for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that (like in the encryption debate) it seems to presume that there’s some algorithm to magically determine who is good (not a terrorist) and who is bad (terrorist!). And just like ridiculous and impossible arguments for “kicking ISIS off the open web” — it would be ridiculously counterproductive. Not only would it be ridiculously costly to internet companies, but it would actually take away a major source of intelligence about terrorist groups, since they often reveal useful things on social media.

But guess who’s seriously thinking about looking to see if it’s possible to slap “material support of terrorism” charges on internet companies? Why, it’s a Senator who actually is supposed to be representing many of their interests as California companies, Senator Dianne Feinstein. Jenna McLaughlin, a national security reporter for The Intercept, noted that Feinstein floated the idea this week, as if Feinstein had just thought of it:

We’ve already discussed how dumb an idea this is (even more so that it comes from a California Senator), but ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer had an excellent response as well, highlighting the sheer stupidity of Feinstein’s suggestion:

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Comments on “Senator Feinstein Revives Stupid Idea That Internet Companies Are 'Materially Supporting Terrorism' If ISIS Members Use Their Sites”

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41 Comments
Jeff says:

Re: also using roads, electricity etc

We had better build some big jails as the “terrorists” are also using roads, electricity & other services to spread their message or transport material. USD is also the currency of choice for most criminals (no not the banks…..the terrorist) so the US gov is also supporting terrorist by printing money.

The schools are teaching the kids to read, so they are also in on the conspiracy to train terrorists.

Finally we had better arrest the last few presidents and CIA directors, as pretty well every anti-West terrorist organisation in existence today was funded or trained either directly or indirectly by the US administration.

Socrates says:

Re: Re: Propaganda

When concentration camps is regarded as a PR problem it is evident that USA has lost it.

I believe we are at a cross roads.

TIIP/TPP, torture, attacks on the occupy movements, spreads in nations that were considered to be “good guys”. Attacks on common citizens and students that once were a trait of dictatorships. And a lot of oblivious people.

At the same time, SOPA did show that the citizens might reign in the regime in USA and other western nations. This gives hope.

jilocasin (profile) says:

You're thinking too small........

I think folks are thinking too small.

If letting terrorists use your website, app, hardware [think encrypted iPhone] means that you can be charged with providing material support for terrorism, them they don’t need to rely on the All Writs Act.

Just like any other completely ethical and above board plea deal, if you unlock this iPhone, then maybe we won’t have you arrested for providing material support for terrorism.

The government operates on many levels and is willing to play the long game….

Socrates says:

Re: Terrorists Use Guns And Bombs

But they did help with the war on Syria, and the war on Libya, and the war on …

We want someone that is illoyal enough to go to war against their own nation, aggressive enough to topple governments, murderous enough that they kill enough to seize power for themselves in entire regions or nations; but otherwise loyal docile peaceful serfs!

This time it will work better!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The government materially supports terrorists too

There are a lot of idiots in SillyCon Valley.

Just because someone works in high technology does not mean they are not mentally high when it comes to politics. You will find that people like corrupt politicians… well as long as that corrupt politician does them favors.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

By all means, let's do that

But let’s start with the biggest terrorist threat — which is not ISIS, despite all the blather. ISIS and other international terrorists have barely managed to kill any US citizens: 9 in 2009, 15 in 2010, 17 in 2011, 10 in 2012, etc. As has been pointed out many times, US citizens are more likely to be killed by their own furniture than by international terrorists.

So let’s not waste time with ISIS. Let’s focus on a far more deadly terrorist organization — one that’s been around for over a century and a half. One that has killed thousands of Americans (and that number may be an underestimate by an order of magnitude). One that maimed, raped, mutilated, and tortured many more. One that has destroyed property on a large scale. One that is still a potent and dangerous organization. One that has recently been considerably emboldened by the rhetoric of a leading Presidential candidate.

I’m talking about the Klan, of course.

Which is of course not on DiFi’s radar because they don’t (usually) go after white people — and because it’s easier for DiFi to grandstand about oh-so-scary ISIS on the other side of the world than to confront the racism in her own state.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Oh please just fucking do it, then arrest yourselves.

The actions of Congress provide material support to a huge number of sins in the world.

We can call them out about their stupidity, but it appears this no longer works. See Also: Candidate Trump.

Actions of Congress have placed many citizens in jeopardy merely because they think they might lose a vote.
We have a resurgence in diseases we claimed we beat… because they refused to take on the anti-vax lobby.
We have tons of people in jail because they refuse to honestly look at the drug problem & keep wasting resources in a ‘war’ that is unwinnable.
We have shitty infrastructure because of giving tax breaks to corporations who buy their influence.
We have leaders who place themselves above the laws they inflict on others.
We have them pushing the country towards an Orwellian nightmare because a movie plot tells them its possible to spy enough to stop all the bad things.

They provide material support to undermine country, shouldn’t they go first?

Ryunosuke (profile) says:

Feinsteine in an idiot. no, the system is idiotic.

When WBC can exercise their free speech (though i may disagree with it) is considered an American virtue, but supporting (even loosely) is un-american, there is something VERY VERY VERY wrong with the system.

There is a difference between giving material support, ie. giving material. support. like guns, and bombs, and such, as opposed to giving immaterial support, such as tweets, blog posts, etc.

Sounds like there could be a technicality on that teenager.

and feinstein is an idiot, every time she opens her mouth, she proves it more and more.

also Welcome to the Red Scare 3.0

Socrates says:

Re: Material support

When WBC can exercise their free speech (though i may disagree with it) is considered an American virtue, but supporting (even loosely) is un-american, there is something VERY VERY VERY wrong with the system.

Yes. And Westboro Baptist Church often go beyond speach, making problems at funerals of fallen gay soldiers and such.

There is a difference between giving material support, ie. giving material. support. like guns, and bombs, and such, as opposed to giving immaterial support, such as tweets, blog posts, etc.

Sounds like there could be a technicality on that teenager.

The US regime is scared of a spontaneous regime change. The citizens have reason to be discontent. Most of the citizens know they were shafted in the “to big to fail” bailout. The last thing the regime needs is someone saying concentration camps is bad, or being a possible rallying point against the regime … because the US regime has lost the moral high ground. There is nothing the regime can say to counter the sentiment.

The police is too scared to do their job properly. And much of their budget comes from looting the public, giving fines for walking strangely, for sitting on a milk crate, for sagging, … .

This gives a perverse result, where police officers that actually does their job is an expense, while looters generate surplus.

Prosecuting twitter users, sifting through private teen sexting communication, and manufacturing plots is perverse in other ways too. Though it is safe and rewarding for bent cops. It were not what the west was about.

And then the US regime gives actual material support to the bat shit crazy fundamentalists in north east Libya.

The US domestic and foreign policy makes as much sense as smoking in a supermarket garage containing a leaking hydrogen fuel cell car!

also Welcome to the Red Scare 3.0

Sad but true.

Anonymous Coward says:

Last time I checked we had children going to sleep hungry right here in the US of A. Elderly citizens not getting their medications because of their need to eat. Our rate of infant mortality is shameful. We have the highest prison population in the world. This cunt needs to come down out of her ivory tower and get her priorities straight.

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