BY ARIEL BEN SOLOMON, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR - 02/08/17 12:00 PM EST
Despite claims by the messaging service Telegram that it is cracking down on Islamic State use of its platform, evidence shows otherwise. The Trump administration and Congress should act quickly to force Telegram to close down accounts affiliated with ISIS, its supporters and those of other terrorist groups.
ISIS terrorists are getting instructions and orders on how to carry out attacks in the West by using the German-based messenger service, The New York Times reported on Feb. 4.
Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors jihadist activity online, told The Hill that Congress has not been moving fast enough to take action against Telegram.
“There are a handful of concerned members of Congress, but action needs to be taken now, before Telegram becomes deeply infested with jihadist communication and propaganda such as what happened to Twitter,” said Stalinsky.
Stalinsky said that MEMRI has been warning members of Congress and other government agencies in Washington for years about jihadist activity online, yet few listened until recently. “Then, Islamic State came and all of the sudden everybody cared about its activity on Twitter.”
Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas) is one of those pushing for action.
“Terrorist use of social media has been a problem for years. I have been fighting to expose this threat since 2010,” said Poe.
“Since then, the problem has only gotten worse. We know terrorists use these platforms to fundraise, recruit, plan and carry out attacks. Telegram is no exception,” he continued, adding that “there is arguably no platform that terrorists are using more today than Telegram.”
Poe noted that Telegram is not the first to face this challenge and that other social media companies have adopted proactive policies that have proven effective in reducing terrorist use of their platforms.
“I will personally stay on top of social media companies like Telegram who continue to allow terrorists to use and abuse their platform.”
In December, Poe sent a letter to Telegram, urging the company to follow the lead of other social media platforms. “I have not received a response and it will not be the last time they hear from me,” he said.