Monday, March 24, 2014

HR 4263 Introduced – Social Media Working Group

As I noted earlier Rep Brooks (R,IN) introduced HR 4263, theSocial Media Working Group Act of 2014. The bill would amend Title III, Science and Technology in the Support of Homeland Security, of the 2002 Homeland Security Act (6 USC 181 et seq) by adding §318 establishing a social media working group (Group) within DHS.

The Under Secretary for Science and Technology would head the Group which would be responsible for preparing “guidance and best practices to the emergency preparedness and response community on the use of social media technologies before, during, and after a terrorist attack” {§318(b)}. The Group would be “composed of a cross section of subject matter experts from Federal, State, local, tribal, and nongovernmental organization practitioners” {§318(c)(1)}.

The Group would meet at least twice a year and prepare an annual report to Congress {§318(g)}. That report would include reviews of:

• Current and emerging social media technologies being used to support preparedness and response activities related to terrorist attacks;
• Best practices and lessons learned on the use of social media during the response to terrorist attacks that occurred during the period covered by the report at issue; and
• Available training for Federal, State, local, and tribal officials on the use of social media in response to a terrorist attack.

The annual reports would also include recommendations to:

• The Department’s use of social media;
• Improve information sharing among the Department and its components; and
• Available training for Federal, State, local, and tribal officials on the use of social media in response to a terrorist attack.


This is an odd little bill. The base concept of planning for the use of social media during a terrorist event does make a certain amount of sense, but limiting it to ‘in the event of a terrorist attack’ in so many places in the bill does sound odd and more than somewhat limiting.

The limiting of analysis of best practices and lessons learned to just during the period “during the response to terrorist attacks” {§318(g)(2)}, for example, seems to be somewhat self-defeating. Terrorist attacks happen so seldom (hopefully) that there would seem to be little to report in this area. It would probably be more helpful if this were expanded to any large scale emergency operation (for example during any presidentially declared emergency). That way those lessons learned would be available and applicable during the actual response to a terrorist event.

There are also puzzling references to ‘information sharing between the Department and appropriate stakeholders” {§318(b)}. I would like to think that this information sharing would be a tad bit more complex and detailed than one typically sees in social media.

On the other hand, I suppose that this could be taken to mean that DHS would use analysis of social media during a terrorist event to track what is going on. If that were the case, however, I would expect to see the mention of various critical infrastructure information and analysis centers (ISACs) and perhaps the Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis in the organizations that would be represented in the Working Group. They are conspicuously absent.

Moving Forward

Ms Brooks is the Chair of the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee. One of the three cosponsors is Rep. Payne (D,NJ) the ranking member of the same Subcommittee. You can’t get much more bipartisan than that.

I expect that we will see a Subcommittee hearing on this in the next couple of weeks. How it moves from there will depend on how it fits in Chairman McCaul’s priorities for the full Committee. I don’t expect that there will be much, if any, opposition to this bill if it makes it to the floor of the House.

I don’t really expect that the Senate would take up this bill unless it attracts the positive attention of Sen. Reid, in which case it would get considered and passed under unanimous consent procedures. It is more likely to get passed if it gets added to the FY 2015 Homeland Security spending bill.

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