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At first glance, I didn’t even give it a second thought.
The request by Rep. Ted Poe to have ISIS banned from Twitter seemed like a non-starter. (Something similar was in play when the Obama administration asked YouTube about the anti-Islam video that sparked unrest in parts of the Middle East a couple of years ago.)
No, the group shouldn’t be banned. Period. End. Of. Discussion.
Free speech rights are too important, and they especially shouldn’t be dictated by the government in a ham-fisted, haphazard fashion.
I pride myself on being a stickler on free speech issues and a glutton for punishment, if that’s what it takes to keep the free flow of ideas, well, free.
No matter how many times I’m called ugly names or sent death threats (or other kinds), I don’t ever plan to budge from that principle.
I’m just not sure what Poe is asking applies.
He is trying to put a dent into the recruiting process of a well-known, blatant terrorist group known for chopping off people’s heads, or burning them alive.
Here’s what he’s thinking:
"No one supports the Bill of Rights more than I do, but free speech has limitations," Rep. Ted Poe of Texas said from the House floor. "Just as there are no constitutional protections for child pornography, terrorists should not have access to an American-controlled social-media platform so they can kill, rape, and pillage and burn."
Poe continued: "It is unlawful to provide a designated foreign terrorist organization like ISIS with material support or resources, including property, tangible or intangible, or services. That's about as comprehensive as you can get. You don't need to be a law school professor to understand this law actually applies to Twitter."
... Twitter has shown a willingness to act swiftly against ISIS propaganda since the terrorist group began using the medium in earnest last summer to spread graphic imagery of its beheadings of hostages. When ISIS beheaded American journalist James Foley last year, Twitter suspended accounts that shared photographs or video of the murder—so quickly that at least one journalist had his account mistakenly taken down for a brief period of time for merely discussing ISIS.
But some users found the disturbing images appearing in their news feeds regardless, as ISIS—which boasts a high level of sophistication and agility on social media—coordinated its spamming to better confuse and evade Twitter's moderators. That reality underscores the ease with which unsavory content can disseminate online, and the increasing scrutiny being applied to Internet companies to develop rules governing online behavior.
I share Poe’s concerns, though not his rhetoric about Twitter aiding ISIS. That’s a bridge too far.
But his primary point is that there are limits and a group like ISIS has gone well beyond them time and time again.
Even if his is a valid point, is it even possible to ban the group from Twitter, and social media in general?
In this new kind of war, the ability of ISIS to reach an international audience is one of its primary strengths. We should try to undermine that as much as possible.
But is Poe’s plan the right one?