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US government loses snooping battle with social networks

Government snooping into online activity is something that has long appalled privacy groups around the world.

In something of a victory for those concerned about privacy and government meddling, the US Senate has killed plans that would have required social networks to tell the government about any users talking about terrorism-related topics.

The change of heart is a win not only for social network users, but also the social networks themselves who will no longer be required to police content more than they already do. The policy had been criticised for being vague, placing undue pressure on companies, and limiting freedom of speech.

Senator Ron Wyden put a hold on the 2016 Intelligence Authorization bill back in July. He was concerned about the requirement for companies to police users' communication, but he is now pleased that the "vague and dangerous provision" has been dropped. Senator Wyden said:

Going after terrorist recruitment and activity online is a serious mission that demands a serious response from our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Social media companies aren't qualified to judge which posts amount to 'terrorist activity', and they shouldn't be forced against their will to create a Facebook Bureau of Investigations to police their users' speech.

But while privacy advocates may celebrate the government backtracking, it is likely that some form of requirement on social media companies to monitor users will returnat some point.

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