Sen. Charles Schumer Wants Feds to Reward Social Media Terrorism Tips

Sen. Charles Schumer is proposing a minimum $25,000 reward.

ByABC News
April 11, 2016, 1:30 PM

— -- It's the "see something, say something" for the digital set.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer wants the government to offer rewards to people who turn in suspicious information they see online that could help thwart a terror attack.

The U.S. Department of State has a "Rewards for Justice" program that has paid out $125 million to over 80 people "who provided credible information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide," according to its website. As social media has morphed into a breeding ground for extremism over the past few years, Schumer said he wants those rewards to also cover future tips generated through social media.

"There is no doubt about it, ISIS actively uses social media as one of their main weapons," Schumer said in a statement. "We are in a time when a terrorist a world away can corrupt a disaffected youth -- and with just a few posts or tweets, can push them to plan or carry out acts of terror. We need the public's eyes to alert authorities if they see someone they know writing things they know spell trouble. And we need to offer a minimum reward for this information if it actually does prevent an attack."

Schumer's bill calls for a minimum $25,000 reward for any information generated through social media "that helps law enforcement thwart terror attacks in the United States."

He pointed to high-profile, recent examples of how social media has been used to communicate extremist messages. Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino shooters, was revealed to have sent private messages to a small group expressing her support for jihad.

Mufid Elfgeeh, a New York pizzeria owner who last year pleaded guilty to providing material support to ISIS, was revealed to have been active on social media and used Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to spread messages about ISIS and other foreign terrorist groups, authorities said.

Popular social media destinations have also been vigilant of extremist activity and have urged users to flag any inappropriate content.

"Our global community is growing every day and we strive to welcome people to an environment free from abusive content. To do this, we rely on people like you. If you see something on Facebook that you believe violates our terms, please report it to us," Facebook's Community Standards page reads. "We have dedicated teams working around the world to review things you report to help make sure Facebook remains safe."

Facebook does not allow terrorist activity or organized crime groups to have a presence on the social network and will also remove content expressing support for these groups, according to the guidelines.

"Supporting or praising leaders of those same organizations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed. We welcome broad discussion and social commentary on these general subjects, but ask that people show sensitivity towards victims of violence and discrimination," the policy states.

Since the middle of 2015, Twitter said it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts, many of which were supporting ISIS, according to a blog post in February from the company.

Twitter increased the size of its teams tasked with reviewing reports of potentially terror-related threats. The company said it has also taken a proactive approach by using its "proprietary spam-fighting tools" that are capable of surfacing accounts that could potentially be in violation.

The results have paid off with Twitter reporting "an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off Twitter."