Skip to main content

Twitter has closed 125,000 accounts suspected of promoting terrorism

twitter job cuts q3 2016 version 1477340647 pew news source
Anthony Quntano / Creative Commons
Terrorist groups have used social media effectively, particularly Twitter, to disseminate propaganda and recruit sympathizers, among other practices. Twitter and other social networks have been criticized for not doing enough to stop terrorist activities online, but Twitter has just revealed that since 2015, it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts “for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS,” also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh.

The report, posted on Twitter’s Policy blog, is the first time the social network has provided details of the efforts made in fighting extremism. They include increasing the size of teams that review reports, to reduce response time; looking into accounts similar to those reported; and using spam-fighting tools to look for “potentially violating accounts.”

Related Videos

Since mid-2015, we have suspended over 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts. Read more here:

— Policy (@policy) February 5, 2016

The company says it has cooperated with law enforcement agencies when appropriate, and are partnering with “organizations working to counter extremist content online,” such as People Against Violent Extremism and Institute for Strategic Dialogue. It’s also sending its global public policy team to events and training sessions on countering violent extremism. After the November 13 attacks in Paris, in 2015, Twitter reportedly met with French officials on developing counter-strategy measures to combat terrorism.

Twitter campaign in #Saudi leads to closure of 300 #Daesh accounts. #UnitedAgainstDaesh

— مركز صواب (@sawabcenter) October 11, 2015

Twitter says the network is an “open platform for expression” that strikes a “balance between the enforcement of our own Twitter Rules covering prohibited behaviors, the legitimate needs of law enforcement, and the ability of users to share their views freely — including views that some people may disagree with or find offensive.”

But as we have seen, for every account that’s shut down, more are created. Twitter acknowledges that, saying there is no “magic algorithm” for identifying terrorist content and “forced to make challenging judgement calls based on very limited information and guidance.” The company says it will continue to enforce those rules and work with authorities and organizations “to find solutions to this critical issue and promote power counter-speed narratives, while other researchers are developing technologies that could help Twitter. Free-speech advocates will no doubt questions if this could lead to censorship, as Twitter and other social networks are faced with the difficult task of providing an open forum.

Editors' Recommendations

Twitter has suspended another 235,000 accounts for terror-related activity

Twitter revealed on Thursday that over the last six months it's suspended 235,000 accounts for promoting extremism and terror.

The figure adds to the 125,000 users it kicked off the site between mid-2015 and February, bringing the total so far to 360,000.

Read more
Twitter not liable for the rise of ISIS, rules federal court

A lawsuit alleging that Twitter was legally responsible for facilitating ISIS attacks has been dismissed by a federal district court judge in California.

The lawsuit was filed in January by the families of two U.S. government contractors (Lloyd “Carl” Fields, Jr. and James Damon Creach) who were shot and killed at a law enforcement center in Amman, Jordan. ISIS took responsibility for the attack, describing the perpetrator as a “lone wolf.”

Read more
Suspected Olympics terror plot foiled with the help of Facebook and Twitter
Guide to watching the Olympics online

For you, Twitter and Facebook may be little more than a way to waste some time at work, but for investigators in Rio de Janeiro, the two social media giants were key tools in taking down a suspected terror plot. According to the judge who oversaw the probe leading to the arrest last week of alleged Islamist militants in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics there, cooperation by Facebook and Twitter was "instrumental to understand the nature of discussions carried out by the suspects."

Judge Marcos Josegrei da Silva noted: "The companies began to provide data related to the content of the conversations and data about where those conversations were posted." While neither Facebook nor Twitter has commented on the details surrounding the case, spokespeople for both companies have noted a zero-tolerance policy for terrorism, and claim to fully cooperate with law enforcement and officials when necessary.

Read more