How Do We Obligate Facebook and Twitter to Assist Us in the Pursuit of Terrorists?

This past week, the United States Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill obligating social media companies (such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube) to notify federal authorities of electronic “terrorist activities.” As quoted by Reuters, the draft text of the law identified these activities, which include publications related to “explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction.” Reuters also confirmed that the primary goal of the law, which is awaiting approval by the House of Representatives, is not to force companies to spy on users, but to give social media companies more legal protection if they report user data to the authorities. This is a very important step, especially after terrorist organizations have been active in their use of social media, not only to broadcast their statements, but also to recruit members and disseminate instructions on how to make explosives. This is what has spurred the cooperation of social media companies and the government, not only in the United States but also in other countries facing the threat of terrorism, to prevent the use of social networks by terrorists who pursue violence. This raises the important question about the possible benefits of this law for countries other than the United States, including Egypt, if it is approved officially, so that it may be the right of the Egyptian government to request from these companies that they cooperate with it in the pursuit of terrorists, to shut down pages and personal accounts that share material relating to terrorism and inciting violence.

The answer to this question is already known. The companies designated in the American law will not cooperate with Egypt or any other country without the approval of the U.S. administration, which is linked fundamentally to Washington’s definition of terrorism and to groups accused of carrying out terrorist acts. This brings us back to square one because the United States still does not see eye to eye with us in this respect because it still considers the Muslim Brotherhood a political party and not a terrorist organization, and calls for its participation in political life in Egypt.

Therefore, the idea now is that Egypt needs to become a part of the machinery that will make it possible to take advantage of this American law, especially because we in Egypt are among the most affected by the use of social media networks by terrorists (what is referred to as “fourth-generation warfare”). More important is the fact that a terrorist group like the Brotherhood has begun to use these sites, not only to spread its toxic ideology, but to undermine the resolve of Egyptians and their confidence in state institutions, specifically in the Egyptian armed forces. This is what has emerged through the latest incident at Sheikh Zuweid, which saw malicious attempts by the Brotherhood to strike a chord with the public by spreading false statistics about the victims of our armed forces in the incident, with the hope that it would bring down the morale of our officers and soldiers.

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