Last week there was a bizarre and ill-informed post by music industry lawyer Chris Castle — who has a weird infatuation with the idea that Google must be pure evil — in which he tried to argue that because YouTube wasn’t able to take down propaganda videos showing ISIS atrocities fast enough, that Google was providing “material support” for terrorism. As Castle notes:
Google’s distribution of jihadi videos on Google’s monopoly video search platform certainly looks like material support of terrorists which is itself a violation of the federal law Google claims to hold so dear. (See 18 U.S. Code §2339A and §2339B aka the U.S. Patriot Act.)
Of course, there are all sorts of problems with the Patriot Act, including its definitions of “material support of terrorism,” but to stretch the law to argue that providing an open platform and simply not removing videos fast enough (the videos in question all got removed pretty rapidly anyway, but not fast enough for Castle) is somehow “material support for terrorism” is flat out crazy. It stems from the same sort of confused logic that Castle has used in the past, arguing that Google and others must magically “just know” what is infringing and what is not — suggesting a true lack of understanding about the scale of offerings like YouTube and the resources needed to sort through all the content.
We were inclined to simply dismiss Castle’s nuttiness to the category of “WTF” where it belongs… until at a conference earlier this week, a DOJ official, John Carlin, who holds the role of assistant attorney general for national security, appeared to suggest that anyone helping ISIS’s social media campaign could be guilty of “material support” for terrorism:
John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, told a cybersecurity conference in Washington on Monday that officials could try to blunt ISIS’s violent PR operation by essentially trying propagandists as terrorists. He suggested the Justice Department could bring prosecutions under the law against providing material support to a terrorist organization. His remarks were believed to be the first time a U.S. official has ever said that people who assist ISIS with online media could face criminal prosecution.
Carlin was asked at the conference whether he would “consider criminal charges” against people who are “proliferating ISIS social media.”
His answer: “Yes. You need to look at the particular facts and evidence.” But Carlin noted that the United States could use the material support law to prosecute “technical expertise” to a designated terrorist organization. And spreading the word for ISIS online could count as such expertise.