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Engel Floor Remarks on Terrorist Use of Social Media

ENGEL FLOOR REMARKS ON TERRORIST USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following floor remarks in the United States House of Representatives supporting the Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015 (H.R. 3654):

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure that would push back against the use of social media by terrorist groups, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  Let me start by thanking Congressmen Poe for introducing this legislation.  I’m very glad to be an original cosponsor.  I also want to thank Congressman Sherman for his hard work, and of course our chairman, Chairman Royce.  So this is a real bipartisan, important, strong measure. 

“I think we need to be using every tool at our disposal to meet the challenge posed by ISIS and other terrorist groups, and this bill will help us meet them on the virtual battlefield where they’ve been having such great success: social media.

“Now anyone who’s looked at the situation over the past months or years know that the one major difference is social media.  Social media, of course, riles up jihadists and also enables them to surreptitiously communicate in terms of plotting terrorist attacks.  So we have to be one step ahead of them.  We cannot let them be one step ahead of us.  And that’s why legislation like this is so important.

“So, I cannot think of a conflict in the past in which our enemies have been able to broadcast such horrific depictions of destruction and bloodshed like we’re seeing from ISIS.  We all know the images of Mohammed Emwazi—who was known as ‘Jihadi John’—as he brutally murdered innocent people.  Those videos spread across the Internet with staggering speed, showing everyone in the world the threat that ISIS posed and the tactics ISIS fighters were willing to use.  Fortunately, the Administration’s efforts succeeded in taking him out.  But we know there are far too many waiting to take his place.

“But ISIS isn’t just using social media to foment fear and panic.  ISIS and other groups have taken full advantage of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms to spread their violent ideology, recruit new fighters, and radicalize members of vulnerable and marginalized populations. 

“For example, more and more information comes out about the San Bernardino shooters.  It’s becoming clear that Tashfeen Maliki used Facebook to convey her commitment to violent extremism to overseas contacts.

“We need to find a way to deal with this challenge on social media without violating free expression or privacy concerns.  It’s going to require creative thinking, but I am confident that we can do it.  We have to do it.  We don’t have a choice but to do it.

“We have already taken some steps.  I worked with Chairman Royce and Representatives Poe and Sherman to push Twitter to make it easier for users to report recruitment efforts.  This is a small step to help with one of the tools ISIS is using.  But they are constantly evolving, and we need to keep looking for ways to push back.

“That’s where this legislation comes in.  This bill would require the Administration to devise a strategy to combat terrorists’ use of social media, and to foster greater collaboration between government and private sector companies to help identify and stop terrorist activities online.

“Again, we need to look for every advantage possible in taking the fight to ISIS.  This bill would help us push back on one of the ways ISIS has achieved such a global reach. 

“I again commend Mr. Poe for his tireless efforts in bringing this legislation to the floor, and the Chairman, as well Mr. Sherman.  I support this measure.  I urge my colleagues to do the same.  And I reserve the balance of my time.”