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Bill Would Require Social Media Companies to Report Terrorist Activity

The bill introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr is modeled on a law requiring reporting of online child pornography.

Two lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require social media and other technology companies to report online terrorist activity they become aware of to law enforcement.

The bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sen. Richard Burr is modeled on a law requiring reporting of online child pornography.

Feinstein said the bill would not require companies to monitor customers or take any additional action to turn up terrorist activity. Rather, if companies become aware of terrorist activity such as attack planning, recruitment or distribution of terrorist material, they must report that information to law enforcement.

"We’re in a new age where terrorist groups like ISIL are using social media to reinvent how they recruit and plot attacks," Feinstein said in a statement. "That information can be the key to identifying and stopping terrorist recruitment or a terrorist attack, but we need help from technology companies."

"Social media is one part of a large puzzle that law enforcement and intelligence officials must piece together to prevent future attacks," added Burr.

Burr (R-N.C.) is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Feinstein (D-Calif.) is vice chairman.

Related: Obama Wants Tech to Help Crack Down on Terrorists Online

President Barack Obama said Sunday that he would urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice. The FBI is investigating last week's shooting attack in San Bernardino, California, as an act of terrorism.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said he opposes the bill because "terrorist activity" isn't defined and companies may perversely avoid looking for content to avoid breaking the law if they fail to report something.

"It would create a perverse incentive for companies to avoid looking for terrorist content on their own networks, because if they saw something and failed to report it they would be breaking the law, but if they stuck their heads in the sand and avoided looking for terrorist content they would be absolved of responsibility," he said in a statement.