Twitter Suspended 125,000 ISIS-Related Accounts in Six Months

Twitter said it has stamped out 125,000 accounts related to terrorist group Islamic State in the past six months.

on Friday revealed it suspended 125,000 accounts associated with the Islamic State over the past six months, underscoring the social media company’s more aggressive stance toward the terrorist group.
At the same time, ISIS’s persistent presence on Twitter, despite the volume of suspensions, illustrates how sophisticated and expansive the group’s social media machine has become.
The disclosure marks the first time Twitter has shared specific figures that speak to its efforts to curb ISIS’s presence on the service. Twitter doesn’t permit tweets, photos or video that promote terrorism or make violent threats, but like other Internet companies it relies on users to flag possible violations.
Twitter has come under fire over the past year as the 140-character social media service became the outlet of choiceused by the ISIS to spread its extremist propaganda and as a place to target potential recruits. It has taken advantage of the public nature of the Twitter forum, and critics say the lax sign-up rules that allow users to create accounts anonymously has allowed the group to flourish.
Trying to combat ISIS on Twitter has been like trying to fight the hydra, the multi-headed serpent in Greek mythology that grew two new heads each time one was lopped off. When Twitter suspends one account, another is able to easily crop up in its place.
One study estimated there were at least 46,000 Twitter accounts used by ISIS in October to November in 2014. The study, released by the Brookings Institution last March, found that a core group of users was adept at spreading messages quickly and effectively. The group has used Twitter to publicize executions, including the beheadings of American journalists, and to brag about military victories.
But how exactly Twitter should handle terrorist-related accounts on its site is trickier than it seems. Law enforcement, for instance, has used Twitter for intelligence-gathering purposes, tracking accounts to shed light on the group’s movements and operations. Twitter also has to deal with the thorny issue of freedom of speech, deciding between a tweet that “promotes terrorism” with one that is simply an extremist view.
“It’s a balancing act for companies who want to protect people’s security, and also want to protect people’s privacy and enable free speech, not censor it,” said William Braniff, executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
In a blog post on Friday, Twitter said: “As many experts and other companies have noted, there is no ‘magic algorithm’ for identifying terrorist content on the internet, so global online platforms are forced to make challenging judgement calls based on very limited information and guidance.”
Still, the pressure for Twitter and its tech peers like Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.-owned YouTube to take a more hardened stance tackling terrorist content has grown in the wake of the shooting sprees in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., last year amid worries that extremist content on these platforms have made it easier to radicalize potential followers. Top U.S. officials flew to Silicon Valleylast month to press tech executives to take a more proactive approach to countering terrorist messages and recruitment online.

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