Advocacy of Terrorism on the Internet: Freedom of Speech Issues and the Material Support Statutes [September 8, 2016] [open pdf - 720KB]
"The development of the Internet has revolutionized communications. It has never been easier to speak to wide audiences or to communicate with people that may be located more than half a world away from the speaker. However, like any neutral platform, the Internet can be used to many different ends, including illegal, offensive, or dangerous purposes. [...] Several U.S. policymakers, including some Members of Congress, have expressed concern about the influence that terrorist advocacy may have upon those who view or read it. The ease with which such speech may be disseminated over the Internet, using popular social media services, has been highlighted by some observers as potentially increasing the ease by which persons who might otherwise have not been exposed to the ideology or recruitment efforts of terrorist entities may become radicalized. These concerns raise the question of whether it would be permissible for the federal government to restrict or prohibit the publication and distribution of speech that advocates the commission of terrorist acts when that speech appears on the Internet. [...] This report discusses relevant precedent concerning the extent to which advocacy of terrorism may be restricted in a manner consistent with the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech Clause. The report also discusses the potential application of the federal ban on the provision of material support to foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) to the advocacy of terrorism, including as it relates to the dissemination of such advocacy via online services like Twitter or Facebook."
CRS Report for Congress, R44626