Senate Intel Committee Wants Facebook, Twitter & YouTube To Report 'Terrorist-Related' Content

from the NSA:-Home-Version dept

Well, we finally received some surveillance reform with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which, even with its built-in six-month waiting period is still more surveillance reform than we've seen in the past thirty years. So, of course, the intelligence "community" is seeking to counterbalance its "losses" with gains from the private sector. Self-spying will have to replace government spying, if we're expected to run a secure nation.

Social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube would be required to report videos and other content posted by suspected terrorists to federal authorities under legislation approved this past week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The measure, contained in the 2016 intelligence authorization, which still has to be voted on by the full Senate, is an effort to help intelligence and law enforcement officials detect threats from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
But there is a silver lining, although it makes absolutely no sense.
It would not require companies to monitor their sites if they do not already do so, said a committee aide…
So… to better secure the nation, companies that already do this thing would be forced to continue doing this thing, even though they've had no problem doing so voluntarily. Those who don't wish to do this won't be forced to do it. The only change then would be the "reporting" aspect, which I imagine is also already in place for most of those voluntarily removing terrorist-related content.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is wasting tax dollars on redundancy, and not the good kind of redundancy that keeps government entities from permanently destroying public records. This is the bad kind of redundancy that is "fighting terrorism" by telling companies to do the thing they already do, unless they don't, in which case, never mind.

The government isn't out of stupid, though.
Although officials are generally pleased to see such accounts taken down, they also worry that threats might go unnoticed.

“In our discussions with parts of the executive branch, they said there have been cases where there have been posts of one sort or another taken down” that might have been useful to know about, the aide said.
On one hand, the government complains that leaving the content up could result in "radicalization" of the few citizens that haven't already been swept up by the FBI's Radicalization Program. On the other, it complains that taking the content down makes it harder to keep an eye on those radicalizing potential terrorists. Its solution is to act like the Internet's Recyle Bin. Toss your terrorist posts here so we can browse them before deletion.

Service providers and tech companies are calling it a violation of users' privacy and state that additional monitoring and adding another step in the takedown process will be technically difficult. National security experts, however, aren't nearly as concerned about privacy violations or technical hurdles. National security is the priority. Everything else is just extraneous noise.
“In a core set of cases, when companies are made aware [of terrorist content], there is real value to security, and potentially even to the companies’ reputation,” said Michael Leiter, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, now an executive vice president with Leidos, a national security contractor. “Rules like this always implicate complex First Amendment and corporate interests. But ultimately this is a higher-tech version of ‘See something, say something.’ And in that sense, I believe that there is value.”
The technical problems are skirted completely and the tiny nod towards citizens' privacy is swallowed up by "see something, say something" and "value." Intelligence at any cost -- especially if the majority of the cost is absorbed by civil liberties and the private sector.

This casual dismissal of concerns is unsightly. Here's a Senate Intelligence Committee aide also lowballing the cost to people's rights and tech companies' bottom lines:
The committee aide said the measure presents “a pretty low burden” to companies, who would have to report only activity that has been reported to them. “We have heard from federal law enforcement that it would be useful to have this kind of information,” he said.
Basically, it's the same non-argument Michael Leiter makes: "value" and "use" to government agencies is really the only thing that matters. These other concerns aren't even worthy of a thoughtful response.

It's highly discouraging to see that the same mentality prevails despite nearly two years of damaging (to the intelligence community's public reputation, not its actual capabilities) leaks. These reps of the intel world can't even be bothered to sincerely address the public's concerns. All they can think about is how "useful" this would be to them.

And so, they've put together a half-assed law (in response to a Facebook-"enabled" terrorist attack) that can't even be bothered to enforce the strengths of their very minimal convictions. It's almost as though the intelligence community said, "This would be kind of nice to have. Why don't you guys see if you can get that for us?" If the community truly felt this information was "valuable" and "useful," the proposed law would demand that all companies comply, rather than limiting it to those who voluntarily police their platforms. But it doesn't. It just asks for some companies to do what they already do and for others to add them to the "reported posts" mailing list. It's nothing more than an attempt to create informal government informants with the added bonus of turning voluntary actions into mandatory requirements.


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  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:21am

    Please change my signature

    to Bombastic T. Flamethrower.

    Seriously? What are they going to do? Implement a "bad words" list? Well, fine then. Get Brain me.

    Have Deep Blue read between the lines and interpret the "intent" of the thoughts behind them?

    I foresee 1 billion false positives and somewhere around ZERO actual hits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:51am

      Maybe the NSA Haiku generator will finally become popular.

      If everyone tacked an NSA Haiku to each of their posts, that's the thing that would render the keywords bit useless.

      Well more useless than it is.



      ARPA Blackmednet Bridge
      national Tremor Spammer
      Verisign Malware

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:30am

    Um.....

    What happens when a law is passed (if one doesn't already exist somewhere) forcing companies to police their platforms? Will this still count as "voluntary"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:22am

      Re: Um.....

      Yes. Just look at how you engage in "voluntary compliance with your tax obligations" every year so that the Internal Revenue Service does not decide to take everything you own. It's all completely voluntary. Failing to do it just means your life is ruined. Nothing big.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:39am

    Maybe not that stupid

    "... they also worry that threats might go unnoticed..."

    This sounds more to me like that Craigslist situation TD has noted before... by taking down posts (in that case, escorts), you force illegal activity underground and make enforcement more difficult.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:52am

    SWAT

    "But ultimately this is a higher-tech version of ‘See something, say something.’ And in that sense, I believe that there is value."

    Another way to take down things you don't like. Just SWAT them. I mean, if you complain to a provider that a post is by a "suspected terrorist", what provider is going to take a chance and leave it up? Who's to say if someone is a suspected terrorist or not? Sometimes it seems like almost everyone is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 11:54am

      Re: SWAT

      Yes, I think you are right on the money. This is SeeSomethingSaySomething.Com.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 3:01pm

      Re: SWAT

      I mean, if you complain to a provider that a post is by a "suspected terrorist", what provider is going to take a chance and leave it up?

      On the other hand, there was the story about "see something, say something, go to prison on terrorist charges". If the FBI finds out you're the one who reported the post (and that seems quite possible), the next question is "how do you know he's a terrorist?" And so the FBI takes up residence in your butt and ruins your life. So they set up these systems for people to turn each other in, and then set up disincentives for using them. Brilliant.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hij (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:56am

    Government Interference

    How many of these folks are also worried about the impact of government regulations in other industries? I seem to keep hearing about politicians complaining that the good old fashioned industries, like building cars, buildings, and producing energy, need less government regulations. Somehow tech is different, even though those other industries make things that can directly impact our health and well being. Personal privacy, on the other hand, is somehow different.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:57am

    Is anyone really surprised that centralized social networks would become institutions of social control by the state?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 9:59am

    The committee aide said the measure presents “a pretty low burden” to companies, who would have to report only activity that has been reported to them.

    All sites need to do is code up the sending of a report to the NSA every time a report button is hit. Lets see what they make of the trolls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:01am

    More Perverse Incentives ...

    This is a great way to encourage sites that already monitor for terroristy stuff to stop monitoring their sites before the law passes. Then they can say, within the law, that they aren't bound by it; and F-U very much if you don't like it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:02am

    If the Feds had any brains, they'd just seed the network with their own "honeypot" recruitment videos, and roll up the idiots who fall for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 12:00pm

      Re:

      But what about the not-at-all-a-terrorist-idiot: just curious, journalists, researchers and mis-typed urls. We just start locking up everyone that ends up on such a page? What a dangerous precedent to create.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:08am

    Yes sir, there's a terrorist behind every kb. Pounding away at the keys, creating harvoc where ever they go. Must be terrible for the Senate Intelligence Committee knowing they need to hide behind a bush some where because all those kb warriors are out and about the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:31am

    Two words:

    Get. Bent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 10:39am

    Value?

    "But ultimately this is a higher-tech version of ‘See something, say something.’ And in that sense, I believe that there is value.”


    He sees value in the creepy, orwellian, worthless idiocy that is "see something, say something", huh? That's not surprising.

    Snitch culture for everybody! What could possibly go wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dfed (profile), 7 Jul 2015 @ 11:28am

    "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist terrorist party?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 11:47am

    The government can't tell a terrorist from granny at the airport. Missing the Boston Bombers after being alerted to them, not being able to properly categorize leakers between whistle-blowers and other motives.

    When the government doesn't have a guess in hell who a terrorist is or what terrorist materials might be. How is a private company supposed to tell. Are the the incompetent TSA going to train them to report more than a few ounces of liquids?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 1:20pm

      Re:

      unless they chose not to do anything about the boston bombers. A lot easier to pass more restrictive laws after something terrible has happened instead of telling people how horrible the tragedy would have been and that they need to give up their freedoms to prevent said tragedy from ever happening.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 12:16pm

    It seems that:

    1) the Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to be the OVERSIGHT board on the intelligence agencies, is acting more like their PROMOTER

    2) the intelligence agencies want everyone else to do their work for them. To that I say - FINE - but can we also abolish all intelligence agencies then, since they will be redundant and useless?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 1:14pm

    If every terrorist related act was reported then there would be hundreds of messages whenever an American politician or government entity made a statement about anything.

    Terrorism is using fear to make people do what you want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 1:32pm

    I'm really surprise no one has mentioned McCarthyism. Basically, it's the same principle. We'll label everyone as Communists, and if you don't nark out another person for being a sympathizer, well than you must be a Communist. I guess the only difference is instead of Hollywood, it's now social media.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2015 @ 5:21pm

    Look, ma, no subpoenas!

    They'll use it to catch suspected terrorists. Suspected terrorists such as the Reason posters whose comments the government has subpoenaed. I imagine the feds wouldn't need a subpoena under this new law. All they would need to do is report the comments as suspicious (domdstic terrorism).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2015 @ 3:00pm

    First "piracy", now "terrorism".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alex Nicolson, 1 Aug 2015 @ 4:40pm

    Is there any reason you don't name the names..

    US Citizens should know the names of the "terrorists", meaning members of Congress that are trying to remove or pervert the Bill of Rights..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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