Sen. Feinstein Shouldn’t Make Tech Companies Do the Government’s National Security Job for It

When a legislator offers a bad legislative idea, I love it when the outcry is so loud, so immediate, that it falls off the radar with nary a whimper. 

That was the case this summer when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tried to fold an amendment into the Intelligence Authorization bill that would have required technology companies to report online ”terrorist activity.” Sure, it sounds like a good idea, but as my colleague Gabe Rottman wrote, the mandate was incredibly vague and would have encouraged companies to report online activity of wholly innocent individuals who had no connection to terrorism whatsoever. The provision was quietly removed from the bill due to outcry from companies, free speech advocates, and even certain politicians.

It’s a mistake to require social media companies to act as arms of the national security state.

You’d think that would be the end of it. But here’s what I don’t like so much about bad legislative ideas:  When they turn up like a bad penny, especially at times of crisis when politicians think they can ram through a proposal that couldn’t pass at a time when cooler heads prevail. 

But, determined to regurgitate her proposal in the wake of the terrible attacks in Paris and San Bernardino in recent weeks, Sen. Feinstein just introduced a standalone measure with precisely the same language that was rejected over the summer.

It’s a mistake to require social media companies to act as arms of the national security state. It’s not their job. It’s not what they do best. The government already monitors much of this information, since so much social media content  is in the public domain already.

This proposal failed once when everyone was thinking rationally about the risks of terrorist attacks. We shouldn’t let the passions of the moment direct us down a different path — one that won’t solve the terrorist problem but will impact the speech rights of untold numbers of wholly innocent social media users.  

View comments (3)
Read the Terms of Use


Do not let this measure pass. It gives complete strangers the freedom to make up whatever they want for their interpretation of my words, written or spoken. my harmless albeit possibly violent sounding normal human conversation could be construed in whatever way some idiot with minimum brain works an a power complex wants to spin it. Then if there's money or press in it they will make a perfectly innocent human life more unbearable than it already is because of those self-same minimal brain works operated power freaks. Please no no no!


The aclu is a terrorist organization that supports a leftist agenda that is contary to the founding fathers intent.Large media companies have made millions off of the internet wich was created with tax dollars. Face book and twitter should be forced to shut down user's who's veiw is contrary to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness


Stay Informed