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October 22, 2019

Legislation Introduced to Create Commission to Study Proliferation of Terrorist Content Online

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, introduced H.R.  4782, the “National Commission on Online Platforms and Homeland Security Act” to address the proliferation of terrorist content on social media and other online platforms.

In the wake of deadly white supremacist attacks in cities from Christchurch, New Zealand to El Paso, Texas, where the attackers exploited online platforms in furtherance of their acts of violence and hateful ideologies, it is clear that much more needs to be done to confront this persistent threat. 

This legislation will set up a bipartisan commission of non-government experts to examine the ways platforms have been exploited to carry out targeted violence, acts of terrorism, and covert foreign state influence campaigns intended to affect U.S. elections.  The Commission will also examine how free speech, privacy, civil rights and civil liberties have been impacted by online terrorist content and covert state influence campaigns, as well as the platforms’ responses to such content.  Importantly, in furtherance of this targeted review, the Commission will look at whether platforms have transparent, consistent, and equitable policies to enforce their rules and if these rules are enforced consistently and effectively.  

In its final report, the Commission will be charged with producing recommendations for how online platforms can address such dangerous content in a manner that promotes free speech and innovation.  

Significantly, the Commission will be chaired by an expert in privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties and will have members with expertise in these areas, as well as computer science and engineering, digital media and communications, online platform management, cybersecurity, information operations, and national security.

Chairman Thompson released the following statement on the legislation:

“Today, the unfortunate reality is that terrorists and other bad actors are spreading their violent ideologies online. This past year, we saw one terrorist livestream his attack and far too many others post their hateful manifestos online.  Online platforms have struggled to respond to viral proliferation of such content.  The magnitude of the challenge demands that we bring experts together to develop effective approaches for companies to keep their platforms safe while promoting free speech and innovation on the internet.  By creating a bipartisan commission, this bill takes an important first step to making online platforms more secure.  I am proud to say it is a product of months of rigorous bipartisan engagement with civil rights and civil liberties groups, industry, and anti-violence organizations.”

At the time of introduction, the National Commission on Online Platforms and Homeland Security Act has been endorsed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Counter Extremism Project, and Jewish Federations of North America. 

Original Co-sponsors of the legislation include: Reps. Jim Langevin, Cedric Richmond, Donald Payne Jr., Max Rose, Yvette Clarke, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Nanette Barragan

This bill will be marked up in Committee tomorrow, October 23rdMore info here

H.R. 4782 Bill Text

Bill Fact Sheet

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