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Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Reps. Fitzpatrick, Gottheimer introduce bill to restrict online terrorism

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U.S. Reps Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) introduced a bill requiring the regular disclosure of the presence of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations on social media websites.

Further, the bill, the Online Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R.9043), would impose financial and criminal penalties for social media companies that fail to eliminate terrorist content from their platforms.

An increasing number of U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) are utilizing social media platforms to spread hate and extremism, as well as recruit and raise funds for acts of terror with cryptocurrencies. Nearly every one of the 69 designated FTOs has a social media presence, according to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

In 2020, the federal government seized millions of dollars in bitcoin tied to FTOs, the largest ever seizure of online terrorist financing. According to public reporting, Facebook accounts linked to ISIS have continued to evade detection on the platform.

“For too long, Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) have been able to spread propaganda and misinformation on social media platforms without consequence. We must punish these bad actors and hold social media platforms accountable,” Fitzpatrick said. “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.”

During the last Congress, Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer were among a group of lawmakers demanding Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey remove all content from FTOs and affiliated profiles, including Hamas and Hezbollah. In November 2019, Twitter suspended some content affiliated with FTOs, including both the official English and Arabic language accounts of the terrorist Hamas movement, among others.

“There is a constant spread of violent extremism, disinformation, foreign interference, and hate online that is undermining our democracy. These forces continue to use platforms provided by U.S.-based social media companies to spread hate, promote terrorist propaganda, and recruit new members. They’re growing even more sophisticated and using digital assets like cryptocurrencies to finance their next attacks,” Gottheimer said. “With this new bipartisan legislation, we’re fighting back and combating these threats at every angle.”