Congressman Joe Barton plans to stop ISIS by shutting down websites, including social media networks.
US Rep. Joe Barton asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler whether they would be able to shut down websites and social media networks used by ISIS and other terrorist groups.
“ISIS and the terrorist networks can’t beat us militarily, but they are really trying to use the Internet and all of the social media to try to intimidate and beat us psychologically,” Barton said. Addressing Wheeler during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Barton continued:
Isn’t there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they’ve declared war against us, our way of life, they’ve threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation.
Wheeler answered, “I’m not sure that our authority extends to picking and choosing among websites, but I do think there are specific things that we can do,” with Barton interrupting to ask, “Do we need on a bipartisan basis to give additional authority to shut sites down?”
Wheeler noted that Congress could update its definition of a “lawful intercept” under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, in which an ISP intercepts a suspect’s Internet traffic and sends a copy to a law enforcement agency performing surveillance. Barton asked Wheeler if the commission will work with lawmakers if Congress decides to update the laws, to which Wheeler answered, “A capital yes, sir.”
The Washington Post also reported on the exchange between Barton and Wheeler earlier today. You can watch Barton’s comments in this video, starting around 1:14:10:
The FCC’s net neutrality rules prevent Internet service providers from blocking transmission of lawful content, but without overriding ISPs’ obligations to meet “the needs of emergency communications and law enforcement, public safety, and national security authorities.”
The hearing moved on to other topics before officials got into any specifics, such as which websites should be shut down or what impact a shutdown would have on non-terrorist users of the Internet and social media sites. Barton is certain that something on the Internet needs to be shut down, however.
“It’s a clear and present danger,” Barton said. “They have declared war against us and they’re using the Internet in an extremely offensive, inappropriate way against us, and we ought to be able to make it, at a minimum much more difficult and hopefully, absolutely shut it down.”
One other member of Congress agreed with Barton. Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.) said, “I wholeheartedly agree with what you’ve said, too, and hopefully we can work on that.”
During the Internet shutdown talk, Wheeler temporarily shifted the topic of conversation to network security, noting that there have been 17 “mysterious” fiber cuts in the San Francisco Bay Area in the past few months, and fiber cuts elsewhere in the US. “This experience has called out the importance of network security,” Wheeler said.
The FCC’s Network Outage Reporting System is relying on ancient technology and “barely holding together with baling wire and glue,” Wheeler said.
“We need to have some kind of a big data capability of determining what’s happening to our network out there, because it’s not just people getting on the network, it’s people doing things to the network,” he said. “We’ve been asking for appropriations to upgrade that.”