How exactly social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook fit into the global terror scheme is a constantly tangling web of data, free speech, and infrastructure.
In the past, sites such as Facebook and Twitter have come under serious fire for their inability to respond to hate speech and violent imagery posted to their platforms in a timely manner. A number of recent murders broadcast on Facebook Live are proof positive that the megalithic website is perhaps still too unwieldy to effectively mitigate content in realtime, relying instead on a built-in army of users to report inappropriate content. Twitter happens to operate in a similar fashion as well.
The issue here lies in our definition of these sites, and how they should, or could be regulated by the federal government in regard to these incidents. On one hand, the First Amendment allows Facebook and Twitter to take a hands-off approach to problem of terrorist propaganda being disseminated via their webspace. On the other hand, however, it is very apparent that the live streaming events and constant tweet-barrages are far more akin to broadcasting than the posting of opinions, and, as such, perhaps need a bit more competent oversight.
In either case, these sites have once again found themselves in hot water with the victims of a domestic terror attack, as a new lawsuit alleges that the sites did far too little to censor radical Islamic propaganda from appearing online.
“A lawsuit filed Wednesday in a California federal court blames Google, Facebook and Twitter for helping to cause the 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino that left 14 dead.
“The suit, filed on behalf of the families of three of those killed in the Dec. 2 attack at a Christmas party for country workers, mirrors similar suits filed by the same law firm in cases involving terror attacks in Dallas and Orlando, Fla. The plaintiffs say the social media giants failed to adequately scrub their online properties of messages from ISIS meant to inspire the terror attacks.
“’For years, Defendants have knowingly and recklessly provided the terrorist group ISIS with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits,’ reads the complaint, filed by attorneys Keith Altman and Theida Salazar.
“’Without Defendants Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible,’ the suit alleges.
“The attorneys represent survivors of Sierra Clayborn, Tin Nguyen and Nicholas Thalasinos, who were among those killed by the husband and wife terrorist duo of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The couple targeted a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health Christmas party in a rented banquet room.”
These problems have not always been apparent for Facebook and Twitter, but, as they continue marching toward internet omnipotence, their status in society has become increasingly oppressive. Their impact on society, now as commonplace as a trip to the doctor or an oil change, has created a niche in which these social media giants are less and less of a privilege and more of a necessity, especially among our nation’s impressionable youth.
As such, it is certainly time that someone begins the long and complex process of determining just how these live-streaming, realtime broadcasters will fall into line with American expectations of safety and decorum.