What Will Happen When Governments Disagree Over Who Is A Terrorist Organization… And Who Needs To Be Blocked Online?
from the a-big-mess dept
You may have heard the recent news that President Trump has decided to label the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a “foreign terrorist organization.” The IRGC is Iran’s powerful military/security/law enforcement apparatus — that also owns a ton of businesses. As the White House itself admits, this is the first time a foreign government agency has been referred to as a foreign terrorist organization. This is big news in a huge variety of ways — in large part because it could end up criminalizing lots of people and businesses who unwittingly do business with the IRGC including (checks notes) a firm called The Trump Organization.
But, leaving that aside, it raises some other issues as well. We’ve been talking about the impact of the terrible EU Terrorist Content Regulation that the EU Parliament will soon be voting on. But, as we’ve discussed in the past, there are lots of questions about who decides just what is “terrorist” content. Daphne Keller tweeted about the IRGC decision, wondering what happens when one country’s laws demand the removal of content from another country’s government and suggests (accurately) this is going to lead to a huge mess.
Has anyone written on what happens when powerful govts disagree about which groups platforms must block as “terrorist”?
Right now it’s easy: block ‘em all. But eventually there will be groups one govt cares about and thinks should *not* be blocked. Then things get interesting. https://t.co/sjISXxuKQg
— Daphne Keller (@daphnehk) April 7, 2019
Of course, it also gets even more complex than that. On a recent On The Media episode, they discussed efforts by a few different websites to archive terrorist propaganda, both to learn about what’s happening (in the form of open source intelligence), but also for the purpose of historical records. As the piece notes, many researchers and reporters find those archives to be incredibly valuable. And yet, they’re dealing with issues of demands for the content to be taken down as “terrorist content.”
Combine all of this together and we’re creating a recipe for disaster. The EU is demanding that all “terrorist content” be deleted with one hour’s notice. The US is designating government organizations as terrorist groups. And human rights groups trying to document war crimes are being kicked off the internet. None of this seems like a good way to actually fight terrorism. It really seems like a solution designed to pretend that terrorists can be swept under the rug, like if we don’t know what they’re doing out there, they’ll just magically disappear.