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Free Expression

Free Speech and Online Intermediaries in an Age of Terror Recruitment

Terrorism is a defining threat in our society today, and the use of any medium of communications – including the Internet – to recruit foot soldiers for terror attacks on the United States is a serious concern. It is understandable and appropriate that this Subcommittee should consider possible governmental responses to this concern, and the legal and constitutional implications of such responses.

There are a number of possible governmental responses to online terror recruitment, including (among others) seeking to directly prohibit speakers from posting such content and seeking to require online service providers to prevent such speech from being posted in the first place, or otherwise holding service providers responsible for the speech. This testimony first looks at the First Amendment issues raised by any governmental attempt to restrict online speech. The testimony then focuses on one possible response – seeking to make online websites and services responsible for policing user content for online terror recruitment activities, or otherwise be held liable for such content.