Ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance, tensions have simmered between the government and technology companies over access to users’ online communication. Congress is now raising the stakes.
The Senate Intelligence Committee included language in an annual intelligence-funding reauthorization bill last month that would require companies such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to disclose any content they spot on their networks that could indicate terrorist activity. The proposed measure could cover everything from emails to tweets to videos.
The move comes as law enforcement struggles to deal with the increased use of social networks for recruitment and planning among terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State’s use of Twitter.
The companies don’t want terrorist activity on their sites, but they also don’t want to play the role of cops.
“We’ve seen in response to the Snowden revelations that people and providers are trying to limit the access the government has to their communications,” said Emma Llansó, the director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “The government is responding by trying to obtain greater and greater access.”