A provision that would have forced tech companies like Twitter and Facebook to report every inkling of “terrorist activity” on their services to law enforcement was removed from the 2016 Intelligence Authorization Bill on Monday.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., put a hold on the bill in July because of the proposal supported by Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The proposal generated intense and negative responses from technologists and privacy supporters who said it would turn tech companies into “law enforcement watchdogs.”
Wyden celebrated his victory in a press release on Monday. “Going after terrorist recruitment and activity online is a serious mission that demands a serious response from our law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” he wrote. “Social media companies aren’t qualified to judge which posts amount to ‘terrorist activity,’ and they shouldn’t be forced against their will to create a Facebook Bureau of Investigations to police their users’ speech.”
The provision was removed during negotiations prior to the the bill’s expected approval by unanimous consent — the tradition for passing the Intelligence Authorization.
One problem with the provision was that no one actually knew what it meant by “terrorist activity.”
When Feinstein mentioned the provision during an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in July, FBI Director James Comey didn’t endorse it, instead replying that Twitter is already “pretty good” at reporting suspicious content to the FBI.