High Court's terrorism ruling could affect how you use Gmail, Twitter and Facebook

Every Social Media website may have a whole new set of problems to deal with such as proactively checking with the U.S. State Department whom or what organizations are considered 'terrorists'.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor on

The U.S. Supreme Court has begun deliberating if sections of the U.S. Patriot Act violate 1st Amendment rights regarding free speech and association. The Supreme Court potentially could affect how you use different applications in the near future.

Everyday we send out an email, twitter, or join a fan page of someone, something or group that has a point of view. But is that necessarily something that the government should be able to use against you and be considered 'support' of those individuals or entities? Maybe. You may have to censor yourself - very carefully - before you send out anything to anyone. Free speech isn't automatic as we all think it is. Ever since the U.S. Patriot Act came into effect, the U.S. Government has had considerable power to investigate and collect information. But how far is it really capable of going, and have key sections of the Patriot Act violated the U.S. Constitution? Some argue that it has.

In an article posted by Reuters today;

The law bars knowingly providing any service, training, expert advice or assistance to any foreign organization designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist.

This potentially has significant impacts on any user of Facebook, Twitter or any other internet application that you use. If you joined a group that the State Department considered a terrorist organization you may be vulnerable to prosecution and may not even know it. Critics of the Act didn't back down:

Georgetown University law professor David Cole argued to the court that the law made it a crime for his clients, the Humanitarian Law Project in Los Angeles and its president Ralph Fertig, to speak out in assistance of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a militant separatist group in Turkey.

David Cole maybe right. Just imagine if you retweet anything that Ralph Fertig send outs on Twitter, you may not even know what you are doing is potentially violating the Patriot Act.

The law's opponents said they would accept the law if it were reframed in a less restrictive way, banning only support that significantly aided unlawful ends.

Justice Stephen Breyer offered this counter argument;

"What's the objection to that?" Breyer asked [Elena] Kagan [Solicitor General of the United States]. She replied that teaching foreign terrorist groups to petition international bodies to get financial or other support would "strengthen those organizations in everything that they do."

Reframed? How about complete overhaul. This section of the law has the potential to trap entire segments of associations and people without them even knowing it.  It doesn't end there, the article goes on;

Some conservative justices also expressed concerns.

Chief Justice John Roberts said he was not so sure what constituted expert advice or assistance to such groups.

If a Supreme Court justice doesn't know, then who does?? Every Social Media website may have a whole new set of problems to deal with such as proactively checking with the U.S. State Department about whom or what organizations are considered 'terrorists'. And how realistic is that? Surely the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that is a violation of the First Amendment. What if the content or person is not in the United States? Is Facebook supposed to make sure that this information is filtered from being seen by U.S. citizens? Sounds like a Green Dam gone amok.

A decision is expected in June.

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