Obama: Terrorists use the Internet to 'poison' Americans

Terrorist groups are using the Internet to “poison” Americans, President Obama said during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

In a passage about the threats posed by terrorism, the first danger Obama mentioned was how extremist groups are using social media networks to disseminate propaganda and recruit Americans.  

“Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people,” he said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage,” he continued. “They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country. Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies. We have to take them out.”

Terrorists’ use of social media platforms to radicalize foreigners has been a hot-button issue on Capitol Hill since the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

According to police, the shooters responsible for the deadly attack in San Bernardino, which left 14 people dead, sent several private messages over Facebook pledging support for Islamic jihad.

Such reports have driven lawmakers and the White House to pressure major tech firms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to do more to police radical propaganda and terrorists’ communications.

Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Cybersecurity: Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica | Senators grill DHS chief on election security | Omnibus to include election cyber funds | Bill would create 'bug bounty' for State Omnibus to include election cybersecurity funds Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate Intel releases election security findings | Facebook to meet with officials on Capitol Hill amid Cambridge Analytica fallout | Orbitz admits possible breach MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinJeh Johnson: Media focused on 'Access Hollywood' tape instead of Russian meddling ahead of election What’s genius for Obama is scandal when it comes to Trump Coalition presses Transportation Dept. for stricter oversight of driverless cars MORE (D-Calif.) are backing legislation that would require these companies to report terrorist activity to authorities.

The White House last week met with top Silicon Valley executives to discuss ways their firms could better combat terrorists’ use of social media.

But some have criticized these efforts, particularly calls for a mandate or legislation.

Most tech and social media companies already have policies to quickly remove violent or terror-related content when prompted, and they argue any legal requirement to report this content could create a slippery slope toward more government security.

Obama didn’t give any indication of whether the White House would support legislation on the topic in his final year in office.