‘No social media accounts for terrorists’: Home GOP pushes to dam sanctioned international leaders from platforms

EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are proposing laws that expand the U.S. Sanctions Act to prohibit social media companies from allowing foreign individuals or organizations sanctioned for terrorism to use their platforms.

The legislation, led by GOP Representatives Andy Barr, Jim Banks and Joe Wilson and supported by 40 other members of the House Republican Study Committee, is titled “No Social Media Accounts for Terrorists or State Sponsors of the Terrorism Act of 2021” . “”

“US law gives Big Tech a free pass to provide platforms for terrorist groups and dictators,” Barr, R-Ky., Told Fox News. “Social media companies shouldn’t provide a means of raising money to terrorists like ISIS or dictators like Iran’s Ayatollah to spread propaganda.”

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Under the current US sanctions law, the President of the United States does not have the authority to oblige social media platforms to comply with US sanctions laws against terrorists based on the International Economic Emergency Powers Act of 1976 – in particular the “Berman Amendments” passed in 1988 and 1994 – which forbid the President to regulate or prohibit anything, even indirectly, that has to do with the free flow of information services.

According to the amendments, the President of the United States “does not include the power, directly or indirectly, to regulate or prohibit (1) postal, telegraphic, telephone, or other personal communications that do not involve the transfer of valuables.”

Neither does the amendment give the President the power to regulate or prohibit “the importation of information or information materials from or export to a country, whether commercial or otherwise, regardless of the format or medium of transmission, including but not limited to” limited to publications, films, posters, records, photographs, microfilms, microfiche, tapes, CDs, CD-ROMs, works of art, and news wire feeds. ”

Republicans argued that the Berman Changes were passed before the modern age of the internet and before the existence of social media, saying they were used by Big Tech and others to argue that social media companies are providing services to terrorists can.

Fox News received nothing but a copy of the new legislation that would clarify the existing Sanctions Act by giving the President the power to “provide services”, including providing and maintaining accounts, through social media platforms to foreign individuals or to foreigners Organizations sanctioned for terrorism and senior officials sanctioned state sponsors of terrorism.

Social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

“Economic sanctions that prohibit the provision of services to people and organizations sanctioned for terrorism should apply to social media platforms while supporting the free flow of information and maintaining the important principle that information should remain sanctioned.” it in the legislation.

A member of Congress told Fox News that banks and US insurance companies are not allowed to provide accounts for sanctioned individuals or organizations. However, due to the current loophole in the Sanctions Act, social media companies are allowed to provide the accounts as they relate to information.

The adjutant said the legislation aims “to oblige the president to implement regulations that treat social media platforms the same as the bank and insurance companies – they cannot provide service to a sanctioned person or entity”.

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Legislation states that social media platforms “make a profit on accounts provided and maintained to individuals and organizations sanctioned for terrorism through the sale of advertisements viewed by such sanctioned individuals through their accounts “.

However, lawmakers maintained the importance of the free flow of information, specifically saying in the legislation that the Treasury Department should “encourage the free flow of information in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and other countries controlled by authoritarian regimes to do so . ” to counteract the oppression of their peoples by such regimes. ”

The legislation also urges the Treasury Department “to ensure that consumer communications technology and tools to circumvent government censorship are available to civil society and democratic activists in such countries.”

In the legislation, the legislature refers to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been classified as a specially designated global terrorist by the Treasury Department, and to “the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” and says that Khamenei “has several social media outlets “have accounts on Twitter and Instagram. ”

“The Supreme Leader has used his reports to threaten violence against Americans, support the destruction of the State of Israel, promote conspiracy theories and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, and encourage anti-Semitism on several occasions,” the legislation reads.

“Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a senior official of a state sponsor of terrorism, has a number of social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms,” ​​the Legislature -Semitic Conspiracy Theory states that Israel is attacking Americans in Iraq planned. ”

“The President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, who was responsible for the brutal killing of half a million of his own people, and the president of a state sponsor of terrorism, has several social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram,” it says the bill. “He has used his social media accounts to whitewash and promote his regime and to encourage hatred of the United States and Israel.”

The legislation further references Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who “heads a regime responsible for multiple human rights abuses and is a state sponsor of terrorism,” and says he has “an account on Twitter that is the official Cuban presidency , “which he allegedly used to” promote global communism, anti-Americanism and the whitewashing of human rights abuses committed by the Cuban regime. ”

“Terrorist organizations and organizations sanctioned for terrorism under Executive Order 13224, including the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah, Kata’ib-Hezbollah, Hamas and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq have one Number of social media accounts Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, “says the legislation.

Republican Studies Committee chairman Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., Said due to “outdated sanctions laws, social media platforms can ban President Trump and other conservatives but allow Iranian Supreme Leader and President Bashar Assad of Syria to keep accounts.” Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. ”

“Thanks to Rep. Barr, we have a bill that sets this double standard and holds Big Tech accountable for the same sanctions laws that other American companies must follow,” said Banks.

Wilson, RS.C., another co-sponsor, said that under applicable law, “social media platforms may provide services to terrorists and rogue regimes that sponsor terrorism with American blood on their hands.”

“The Supreme Leader of Iran, the President of Cuba and the criminal Bashar al-Assad all have social media accounts on multiple platforms hosted by American companies,” Wilson continued. “This is unacceptable, which is why I supported this important conservative initiative with over 40 of my colleagues on the Republican Studies Committee to hold Big Tech accountable for the same sanctions laws that other companies must obey.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on the legislation.

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Meanwhile, the assistant congressional told Fox News that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would not be a shield for social media companies when the legislation goes into effect.

Republicans have questioned whether social media giants should still be granted liability protection under Section 230 – a rule that protects social media companies from being held liable for content on their platforms while they can moderate that content .

“When we talk about sanctions, we are talking about criminal sanctions – knowing and deliberate violations,” said the aide. “If this went into effect, 230 would not be a shield for the activities of social media companies.”

The aide said the protection social media companies have from the Berman changes “is worse than 230.”

“They can hide behind the fact that they are related to information and are immune to any presidential or prudential policy making under the sanctions law,” the aide said.

A well-known source told Fox News that Twitter had been investigating the issue closely with an outside lawyer. The source told Fox News that they understand Twitter is currently in compliance with the sanctions regime.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Twitter and Youtube declined to comment on Fox News.

Social media platforms have been criticized by Republicans and scrutinized internationally for permanently banning former President Trump from the platforms after the uprising in the Capitol on January 6th.

Twitter, in particular, has come under fire for removing Trump from the platform indefinitely. He claimed his continued use of his account risked incitement to violence, while Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could continue to use Twitter to threaten attacks against Israel despite threatening tweets against the US and using the platform.

During a Senate hearing in October, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stated that Khameni’s tweets are “not in violation of our Terms of Use because we consider them to be” saber rattles, “which is part of what world leaders are saying in concert with other countries. “

“Speaking against our own people or the citizens of a country is different from our point of view and can do more immediate damage,” added Dorsey.

However, Twitter told Fox News last month that Khamenei’s account on the platform is not considered verified.

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Twitter told Fox News that the company recognizes Khamenei as a “theocratic leader and religious figurehead” as opposed to a traditional head of state.

Twitter generally pointed to Khamenei’s account and said, “No account is above the Twitter rules.” Twitter suspended Khamenei from the platform in January and removed his tweet claiming the US and other western nations’ coronavirus vaccines are “totally untrustworthy”.

Fox News’ Peter Hasson contributed to this report.

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