Three New Papers on Online Violent Extremism from the Program on Extremism

Drawing of young man in a teal hoodie at a desk spray painting a surveillance camera as he works on his laptop while another man at a desk sweats as he looks at an eye on the computer screen with a man behind him starting over a wall at his screenThe George Washington University Program on Extremism released three new papers on Online Violent Extremism. All deal with the complicated issue of determining and assigning who bears the legal and moral onus of countering online terrorism.

Leveraging CDA 230 to Counter Online Extremism” by Annemarie Bridy argues “that the scope of immunity in Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act] needn’t be narrowed, but the statute could be productively amended to better safeguard free speech as the world’s largest social media platforms turn to automated tools to comply with new, speech-restrictive European regulations.”

Counterterrorism is a Public Function: Resetting the Balance Between Public and Private Sectors in Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet” by Alexander Guittard tackles the complex issue of keeping the internet free and open for standard users, but restricted for those who use it for harm. Guittard, leaning on precedents in which government policies were established in response to public threats, argues that the U.S. Government should “not take the convenient route of outsourcing difficult public policy issues to private companies” and should address the issue legislatively.

Three Constitutional Thickets: Why Regulating Online Violent Extremism is Hard” by Daphne Keller explores the difficulty of internet regulation in a country founded on the freedom of speech. Keller explores the difficulty Congress faces in attempting to bend the free speech laws for certain platforms over others, meet anti-terrorism goals, and successfully get any solution through the legislative process.

Each paper acknowledges the contentious and divisive issue of finding a middle ground between free speech and regulating online terrorism, but cites clear cases in which real-world horrors were kindled, planned, and executed by free, open access to the internet.


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