Debate rages about new bill that would compel social media companies to tattle

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill introduced legislation Tuesday to compel social media companies to join the fight on terror.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would require companies like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to report any activity that could be deemed terrorist in nature to the authorities, the Associated Press reported.

Companies would be required to report to law enforcement if they became aware of terrorist activity such as attack planning, recruiting or distribution of terrorist material.

Some, however, think the law is a bad idea.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement that “terrorist activity” isn’t defined well enough and fears social media companies could avoid looking at all to avoid a lawsuit.

“I’m for smart security policies. If law enforcement agencies decide that terrorist content is not being identified quickly enough, then the solution should be to give those agencies more resources and personnel so they know where to look for terrorist content online,” Wyden wrote.

Fox News’ Bull & Bears panel had a fiery debate over the proposed law Saturday.

“It’s impractical,” Gary B. Smith said. “On Twitter alone there 500 million tweets a day. People upload on Facebook 163,000 photos per second.”

Smith added that private companies and their employees are motivated by what pays them.

“Unless we’re taking over entire industries like we did during World War II this effort is going to fall flat on its face.”

John Layfield agreed.

“Once you get past ISIS then how do you define a terrorist?” he asked. “Remember one person’s terrorist can be another person’s freedom fighter. Remember what happened with McCarthyism in the 40s and 50s. That’s a slippery slope you don’t want to get to. Congress is doing what they do best. They’re lazy, inept and they’re posturing and they’re trying to pass this off on social media companies.”

Suzy Welch said companies should be helping voluntarily and shouldn’t need a law to compel them.

“Organized crime was basically brought to a stop because the banks began to cooperate with government,” Welch said. “Facebook knows when you sneeze — We’ve got to cooperate. We’ve got to get together. United we stand divided we fall, everybody into the fight.”

Watch the debate below.

Carmine Sabia

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