Senate spy bill tells tech: Treat terror like child porn

Senators are using an annual spy policy bill to tell companies like Google and Twitter to do their job in fighting terrorism, they say.

“It is really the beginning of saying: ‘Hey Mr. and Mrs. American technology, you have a responsibility too,’” Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping GOP senator wants Violence Against Women Act passage by year end MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said during a hearing on Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

The provision in the fiscal 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act — which passed through the committee behind closed doors last month — “would require technology companies to inform the appropriate authorities when they obtain knowledge of terrorist activity,” she added. 

The provision does not require companies to do any new monitoring of their networks, she added — just give officials notice if they detect terrorist activity.

It was modeled after similar legislation requiring tech companies to tell the government if they spot signs of child pornography.

“We do that for child pornography — don’t you think we should do it for possible terrorist acts?” asked Feinstein.

Feinstein’s brief explanation of the measure came during a hearing with FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien Comey3 reasons why impeachment fatigue has already set in Day 2 impeachment ratings drop by more than 1 million from first day Chris Wallace on Yovanovitch testimony: 'If you're not moved, you don't have a pulse' MORE, who claimed to have only a limited understanding of what it would do.

“It’s an interesting idea,” he said.

However, Comey notably declined to explicitly endorse the proposal.

“I’d want to hear out the other side,” he told Feinstein. “This is something I haven’t read enough to give you an intelligent answer.”

So far, tech companies “are pretty good about telling us what they see,” Comey added.

National security officials have repeatedly warned that extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been able to skillfully recruit adherents and supporters on social networks such as Twitter.

While the companies have routinely purged messages and videos inspired by extremists, they have come under some fire for not doing more