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August 19, 2016

Twitter Shuts Down Accounts Linked to Terrorists


The social media platform Twitter announced on Aug. 18, 2016 that since February 2016 it had shut down more than 235,000 accounts for promoting terrorism.

In statement released on their blog, Twitter noted that it had previously shut down 125,000 accounts for “violating our longtime prohibition on violent threats and the promotion of terrorism.? In total, the company claimed to have suspended more than 360,000 accounts since June 2015.

Twitter added:

“Daily suspensions are up over 80 percent since last year, with spikes in suspensions immediately following terrorist attacks. 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. We have also made progress in disrupting the ability of those suspended to immediately return to the platform.?

Twitter also stated that it had expanded the capabilities of those tasked with evaluating “questionable? accounts and increased cooperation with other social media networks to share “information and best practices for identifying terrorist content.?

Twitter’s attempts to remove jihadist content haven’t always been successful. As CAMERA has noted, the company closed down an account linked to Hamas, the U.S.-designated terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, on April 15, 2016 (“Twitter Tries to ‘Mute’ Hamas,? April 18, 2016). Yet, that Twitter account, which belonged to Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida, reappeared the same day. Obeida simply used his new account to direct the 196,000 followers of Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades to a new page created for the group.

Other social media outlets, such as Facebook, have been used not only to promote terrorism, but to actively recruit terrorists, as CAMERA has highlighted (see, for example “Israel Busts Terror Cells Sponsored by Hezbollah, Recruited via Facebook,? Aug. 17, 2016).

However, the mechanisms in place to properly distinguish terrorists from non-terrorists are imperfect, at best. Twitter's own rules (which can be found here) are vague.

Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a noted Middle East analyst, journalist and author, was banned from Facebook for discussing the threat “the Islamist insurgency? posed to Europe. The post which resulted in Spyer’s suspension from the site was a detailed analysis of recent terrorist attacks in Europe and how policymakers were responding. As Spyer stated on his blog, Facebook initially stood by its decision only to reinstate his account several days later without explanation.

In a Feb. 29, 2016 report published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (“Incitement on Social Media: The Fuel and Detonator of Palestinian Violence?), an Israeli think tank, analyst Gilad Gamlieli pointed to the role of social media in encouraging Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Gamlieli argued that social media networks play a “major role…in shaping the Palestinian narrative about the incidents and influencing their course.? Among the content circulated were videos, cartoons and instructions on how to stab Jews. In at least one incident, a Palestinian terrorist named Iyad Awawdeh stabbed an Israeli soldier in Hebron on Oct. 16, 2015. Awawdeh disguised himself as a journalist before attempting to murder the soldier in an act that “was filmed by Awawdeh’s colleagues [and] made waves in the social networks.?

In their blog post, Twitter was careful to point out that, “There is no one ‘magic algorithm’ for identifying terrorist content on the Internet.? Properly identifying that content seems likely to be a problem that will confront social media platforms for the foreseeable future.

Posted by SD at August 19, 2016 02:24 PM


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