Fitzpatrick & Gottheimer Introduce New Bipartisan Bill to Stop Online Terror, Terror Financing, & Extremism

New legislation targets terrorist social media propaganda and fundraising; Establishes criminal and financial penalties for social media platforms that fail to remove terrorist content

January 2, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, January 2nd, 2021, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) announced new bipartisan legislation, H.R.9043, the Online Terrorism Prevention Act, to require regular disclosure of the presence of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations on social media websites, and to impose financial and criminal penalties for social media companies that fail to eliminate terrorist content from their platforms. 

U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) are increasingly utilizing social media platforms to spread hate and extremism, recruit, and raise funds for acts of terror with cryptocurrencies. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has previously assessed that nearly every one of the 69 designated FTOs has a social media presence.

This past year, the federal government seized millions of dollars in bitcoin tied to FTOs, the largest ever seizure of online terrorist financing. Facebook accounts linked to ISIS have also continued to evade detection on the platform, allowing them to continue to generate extremist content online, according to public reporting.

“For too long, Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) have been able to spread propaganda and misinformation on social media platforms without consequence. We must punish these bad actors and hold social media platforms accountable,” said Fitzpatrick. “By enforcing penalties on social media platforms, we will be able to address the growing presence of FTOs online and actively combat the spread of terrorist propaganda.”

“There is a constant spread of violent extremism, disinformation, foreign interference, and hate online that is undermining our democracy. These forces continue to use platforms provided by U.S.-based social media companies to spread hate, promote terrorist propaganda, and recruit new members. They’re growing even more sophisticated and using digital assets like cryptocurrencies to finance their next attacks,” said Gottheimer. “With this new bipartisan legislation, we’re fighting back and combating these threats at every angle.”

During the 116th Congress, Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer led a bipartisan initiative, demanding Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey remove all content from FTOs and affiliated profiles, including Hamas and Hezbollah. In early November 2019, in response to the bipartisan efforts, Twitter suspended some content affiliated with FTOs, including both the official English and Arabic language accounts of the terrorist Hamas movement, the English and Arabic language accounts of Hezbollah television channel and propaganda news service Al-Manar, the Hamas television channel and propaganda news service Quds News Network, and other Hamas and Hezbollah affiliated activists.