A War of the Words: Assessing Liability for Online Incitement of Terrorism

25 Pages Posted: 14 May 2019

See all articles by Zachary Shufro

Zachary Shufro

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law; Tufts University; NYU School of Law

Date Written: February 23, 2019


Social media posts and terrorism have become inextricably linked in public analysis of recent terror incidents. Terrorist organizations rely on the internet to recruit new members, incite violence, and publicize their actions. Despite the significant reliance of terrorist organizations on social media, social media companies have inconsistently and infrequently attempted to address this usage. At present, there is insufficient domestic regulation of terrorist presence on social media, and American law struggles to adapt from the print medium to a flexible and responsive First Amendment jurisprudence of the internet age. By taking inspiration from recent German and French regulation of online terrorist activity, the United States might be able to address some of these shortcomings. The government could limit terrorist organization presence online by (1) re-defining ‘hate speech’ to include language that incites imminent terrorist action and (2) instituting a compliance regime that regulates social media companies as internet platforms. This paper proposes a course of action that could result in an online environment that stifles, rather than fosters, terrorist organization activity moving forward.

Keywords: Terrorism, Internet, Social media, First Amendment, Technology, Internet law, Social media regulation, Communications law, Communications Decency Act

JEL Classification: K14, K23, K29, K42

Suggested Citation

Shufro, Zachary, A War of the Words: Assessing Liability for Online Incitement of Terrorism (February 23, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3372314 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3372314

Zachary Shufro (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC
United States

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

NYU School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
United States
8606042619 (Phone)

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