Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Senate intelligence bill would require service providers to report threats, opposed for vagueness

The Centers for Democracy and Technology have sent a Coalition Letter opposing Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act, as documented here. The act would require service providers and telecommunications companies to report speech or content to authorities when they have knowledge that the speech represents a potential terrorist threat.  The obvious problem is vagueness.

It does not appear, from what I see, that it would require pre-screening of content for terror threats (similar in principle for having to prescreen for libel, which Section 230 protects against, or for copyright, which the DMCA Safe Harbor is supposed to protect). 

However, if might require companies to be very proactive when comments are reported by users, or for moderators of forums to act proactively.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story on its opposition by Kelsey Harclerode, link here
The bill is S 1705, with text here
Practically all service providers ban threats or advocacy of violence.  In practice, much violent content is motivate by personal or domestic disputes or broken relationships.  Terrorism refers to violence intended to intimidate a civilian population for political purposes.

Again, when amateurs comment on issues related to terror, there may be readers who don’t distinguish between commentary or journalism and actual advocacy. 


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