Tired of being blamed for “helping” the spread of terrorism, Twitter recently announced it was suspending 235,000 accounts for “promoting terrorism” in the past six months. This brings the total of suspended accounts up to 360,000 since mid-2015.
Media WatchdogsThe company didn’t go so far as to name the specific accounts or terrorist groups tied to them, most media watchdogs believe the accounts to be tied to ISIS, which has been actively and aggressively using social media to radicalize and recruit youth, especially in Europe and the U.S.
In announcing the decision, Twitter did not mince words: “We strongly condemn these acts and remain committed to eliminating the promotion of violence or terrorism on our platform… Our response time for suspending reported accounts, the amount of time these accounts are on Twitter, and the number of followers they accumulate have all decreased dramatically…”
The job of promoting the free exchange of ideas on social media while also protecting against potential abuses of that freedom to promote terror is a constant battle. Twitter uses blocks, filters and, of course, real-time incident reporting from other users to monitor out of bounds content and communication.
Twitter Reduced ISIS TrafficAccording to Twitter, those efforts are working and continue to get better. The Obama administration announced ISIS’s Twitter traffic has been dramatically reduced in recent years. Facebook and YouTube are also working hard to slow, reduce and eliminate ISIS supporters from their membership.
This has resulted in a strong response from ISIS supporters, ironically demanding the social engines stop limiting their free speech. Nobody seems to care what they think, though. All major social networks are ramping up efforts to drastically reduce this sort of rhetoric on their systems.
Meanwhile, while Twitter is winning in one arena, they are still struggling in another. Critics continue to hammer the platform for facilitating cyber bullying. It’s something just about anyone with an internet connection has witnessed. Someone says or does something, and it gets misinterpreted. Suddenly millions of people are beating on the original poster.
With Twitter, this sort of scenario is much easier, because there’s a lot of potential misunderstanding in 140 characters or less. Fortunately, there’s also much less ISIS these days.
David Firester is an intelligence analyst in NJ.