New worry for tech firms that don’t want to hand data to the government: Hillary Clinton

The Los Angeles Times reports: When Hillary Rodham Clinton talks tough about diluting the influence of the sprawling Islamic State terrorist network, she sometimes skips the rhetoric on diplomatic and military strategy in the Middle East – and instead targets Silicon Valley.

Executives in the boardrooms of America’s big tech firms are taking notice as the Democratic front-runner in the presidential race warns about the impunity with which terrorists operate online. Clinton said the problem needs a “hard look” by government. Internet freedom is great, she told voters at a town hall in New Hampshire, “but I don’t believe we should give a free pass to a terrorist organization.”

The remarks haven’t been particularly controversial in the early voting states where Clinton is stumping. But across the country in the Bay Area, the social media industry is anxious about what exactly Clinton has in mind. Her focus comes as tech companies are engaged in a pitched battle with their state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, over her push to require Internet companies to become government informants when they come across potentially troublesome communications.

At the core of the dispute is disagreement over how much companies should do to stop terrorist groups from using their platforms to recruit members and coordinate attacks. The firms, Feinstein said at a hearing last month, are taking down thousands of posts monthly that violate corporate bans on terrorism-related discussions – but they are not alerting law enforcement about any of that content. Feinstein made the comments after convening meetings with high-level officials at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and Microsoft.

“The companies do not proactively monitor their sites to identify [terrorist] content, nor do they inform the FBI when they identified and remove their content,” she said. “I believe they should.” Soon after, the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which Feinstein is vice chair, tacked language onto a routine funding bill requiring the firms to share with law enforcement any such posts they come across. [Continue reading…]

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