Twitter suspends 235,000 accounts in six months for promoting terrorism
Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts in the last six months for violation of its policies regarding the promotion of terrorism and violent threat, the company said Thursday, adding to 125,000 suspensions in the six months before that.
In a blog post on Thursday, the company said that “there is no one ‘magic algorithm’ for identifying terrorist content on the Internet”.
“But”, the post continued, “we continue to utilise other forms of technology, like proprietary spam-fighting tools, to supplement reports from our users and help identify repeat account abuse”.
Salaam Bhatti, the national spokesperson for True Islam, a group which has partnered with Twitter in identifying extremist content, said: “This is a great step in the right direction.”
“Twitter [has become] a digital social media battlefield of some sort which is also a way of recruiting people. As we can see that the extremist groups are losing on the territorial front, so they’re going to social media again and again to recruit the youth.”
Daily suspensions were up 80% since the previous year, with suspensions spiking after major terrorist attacks, Twitter said, adding: “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 company did not immediately reply to a request for overall figures on how many accounts are suspended for any reason.
“We have also made progress in disrupting the ability of those suspended to immediately return to the platform,” the post read. “We have expanded the teams that review reports around the clock, along with their tools and language capabilities. We also collaborate with other social platforms, sharing information and best practices for identifying terrorist content.”
Twitter, which says on its site that it has 313 million monthly active users, has long struggled with controlling terrorism-linked accounts on its platform, especially with the rise of social media-savvy groups like Islamic State, who use Twitter to great effect for recruitment and propaganda purposes.
In January, the US government held a meeting in California with Silicon Valley tech firms, including Facebook, Twitter, Apple and YouTube, to address extremism online. But Twitter has run into trouble when it comes to balancing its priorities.
Most recently, the company came under fire for the disparity in how fast it took down content from the 2016 Olympics at the request of NBC, which holds exclusive US rights to the games, and in how fast it addresses racial and misogynistic abuse on its platform, such as that aimed at Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones in June.
And in August, a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a lawsuit that had accused Twitter of supporting Isis. The family of two men killed in Jordan filed the suit, saying that the social network was liable for allowing the group to sign up for an account.
Judge William H Orrick wrote in his decision: “As horrific as these deaths were … Twitter cannot be treated as a publisher or speaker of Isis’s hateful rhetoric and is not liable under the facts alleged.”