House Legislation Targets Social Media Platforms That Allow Terrorist Accounts

Hamas (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images)
March 29, 2022

A new piece of House legislation would mandate that social media platforms remove terrorist organizations and their supporters or face a $50,000 fine for every infraction.

The No Publicity for Terrorists Act, spearheaded by Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R., N.C.), is a bid by Republican lawmakers to crack down on the use of social media by terrorist sympathizers, groups, and countries known to promote extremist organizations.

Cawthorn, who wrote the bill with Rep. Bob Good (R., Va.), said social media companies have moved in recent years to ban big name conservative voices, most notably former president Donald Trump, but continue to give terrorists a platform to promote radical ideologies. The bill is aimed at holding these companies accountable for what Cawthorn described as their double standard in enforcing community guidelines.

"Big Tech is scared to death of a MAGA reemergence in America. They know they won’t win the argument on policy or politics, so they have moved to silence, deplatform, and ban prominent conservative voices, including President Donald Trump," Cawthorn told the Washington Free Beacon. "It shows their outrageous bias: They claim President Trump is a danger to public discourse, but allow terrorist organizations, hate groups, and dictators to remain on their platforms? My legislation holds them accountable for their assault on conservatives and exposes their outrageous double standard."

Major platforms from Twitter to Facebook have long faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill for allowing their social sites to be used by extremist groups that promote violence against the United States, Israel, and other American allies.

While companies such as Twitter have moved to ban accounts belonging to the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, both of which are designated by the U.S. government, there remain scores of accounts that promote violent rhetoric and advocate various regional terror groups. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, for example, has an active account that routinely encourages violence against Israel and threatens U.S. interests in the Middle East. Facebook, too, has been embroiled in multiple scandals in which terrorist factions have used the platform to promote Jew hatred and violence.

The bill would amend federal law to mandate that social media companies in particular police their platforms and remove any account promoting extremist rhetoric. The account or accounts would have to be removed within 24 hours of being discovered, according to the bill. If a social media company knows of an extremist account and does not remove it within this time period, it would face a $50,000 civil fine. This includes accounts that are linked to or maintained by designated terror groups.

With Democrats in control of the House, it is unlikely the bill will be able to garner the support needed to advance. If Republicans retake the majority, however, legislation of this nature is likely to be a chief priority. Since Twitter banned Trump, Republicans have been highly critical of social media platforms, accusing them of bias and silencing prominent conservative voices.

"There is no excuse or justification for Big Tech to give known terrorists a dangerous platform," Good said in a statement. "This is especially egregious given Big Tech’s track record of regularly and unjustifiably censoring conservative voices like President Trump, and Members of Congress."

The proposed law is written to include large social media companies such as Twitter and smaller, less popular ones.

Additionally, executives at social media companies that are required to file quarterly reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission could face fines or prison time if they do not comply with the proposed law.