Social media tools help fight terror
Fort Hood, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; San Bernadino, California; Orlando, Florida; St. Cloud, Minnesota; Seaside Park, New Jersey; Chelsea, New York. Acts of terror are becoming more frequent and more deadly in our country and our world, and radical Jihadist groups are operating in more countries than ever before. Since 2010, worldwide deaths from terror attacks have increased by nearly 800 percent according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Congress has taken steps to enhance our screening procedures for people traveling to our shores, but we can do more to vet potential visitors and immigrants to the United States. However, as we’ve seen from homegrown inspired attacks, we must also focus on efforts to identify American citizens who are inspired, encouraged or instructed by terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Social and digital media have revolutionized communication for you and me, but also for terrorists and extremists. We know that terrorist groups like ISIS have turned to social media and other technologies to reach new people with their message of fear and hate and to foster new recruits.
At the same time, social and digital media are at the center of effective response and prevention efforts. Law enforcement and intelligence organizations can gather information about and alert the public to persons of interest using social and digital media platforms, as we saw most recently in New York City. First responders use these tools to help quickly and accurately convey important information to impacted communities and offer real-time updates on developing threats. Thanks to functions like Facebook’s check-in feature, family members and friends can have peace of mind that their loved ones are safe from harm in an emergency setting.
In fact, just last year, I worked with my colleagues in Congress to establish a public-private working group that would set up guidance and best practices for using social media during a terrorist attack or other emergency. Signed into law last fall, this legislation requires the Department of Homeland Security to bring together federal, state and local government and private sector representatives to improve communications and information sharing between the public and private sector in a crisis.
Technology is constantly changing, and so collaborating with our tech sector to effectively use social and digital media channels is an important piece of our strategy to combat terrorism, and specifically the radicalization of American citizens. Not only is public-private collaboration essential in investigating and identifying Jihadists and American recruits, it helps us communicate an alternative to extremist propaganda used in Jihadist recruitment.
That’s why I have cosponsored House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s (R-TX) Digital Security Commission Act of 2016. This bill brings together experts from law enforcement, technology, intelligence, and civil liberty communities to develop solutions that keep criminals and terrorists from exploiting technological innovations and that also safeguard constitutional liberties. These experts will assess and make recommendations for policy and practice concerning security in the digital world as it stands today, as well as to offer new recommendations as technology evolves in the coming years.
As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I will continue to have important conversations with technology industry partners and our allies around the world to better understand how we partner to accurately and efficiently identify Jihadists on social media before they have the opportunity to spread their message to millions of people around the globe. As individual citizens, it is our collective responsibility to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately. If you see something, whether it’s140 threatening characters in your Twitter feed or a suspicious bag at the airport, say something.
# # #
Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks is a second term Republican who represents eight urban, suburban and rural counties in Central Indiana, including the north side of Indianapolis. She uses her background as a Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis, a U.S. Attorney and a community college administrator to improve education, jobs, health and homeland security. Through her membership on the Energy and Commerce Committee, she is working on mental health, substance abuse, biodefense and Medicaid reform issues. As a member of the Ethics Committee, she works with her colleagues to restore confidence in Congress.