WASHINGTON — Representatives from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were on Capitol Hill today to testify before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on their efforts to combat terrorism-related activities on their platforms. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the Commerce Committee, asked the tech companies the following questions on important national security issues:
- Social media companies are increasingly able to remove terrorist recruitment, incitement, and training materials before it posts to their platforms by relying on improved automated systems. Other than content removal, what else can be done to limit the audience or distribution of these dangerous materials?
- Terrorist how-to guides are protected by the First Amendment in the United States, but violate the content policies of many social media companies as well as the laws of some international partner nations. What countries have laws that go beyond your company’s content policies and can you give examples of how you have worked with those countries to de-conflict those differences?
- The long-term business interests of social media platforms are aligned with the public safety concerns of this committee: users want to feel safe while engaging with the online community. To this end, Facebook is developing a way to identify users at higher risk of suicide and urgently pass posts from any user in danger to a community operations team, as well as provide that user with a menu of options to reach out to their own friends or other suicide prevention partners. Is Facebook developing any similar tool to identify users at higher risk of terrorist activity? If so, what off-ramp options would Facebook consider offering those users?
As chairman of the homeland security committee, Sen. Johnson has been deeply involved in countering violent extremism online and has held 11 hearings on the topics of terrorism and social media.