Twitter shuts down 125,000 ISIS-related accounts

News
8 Feb, 2016

Social network emphasises its commitment to combatting extremism

Twitter has shut down more than 125,000 accounts threatening or promoting terrorism since mid-2015, in its “ongoing work” to combat extremism.

“We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service,” said the social networking site in a blog post rounding up its efforts to counter extremist content.

It said most of the suspended accounts suspended were related to extremist group ISIS.

Last week, representatives of Twitter, Facebook and Google were questioned by MPs about what they have been doing to proactively remove extremist content on their respective platforms.

The size of their “hit squads”, the teams that monitor and remove offensive and dangerous content, was of particular interest to MPs, but Twitter did not give a solid figure, saying it has “more than 100” staff.

Its latest policy post also refrained from specifics, but said it has “increased the size of the teams that review reports, reducing our response time significantly”.

It added that it has been accessing other accounts similar to the extremist ones reported, and has been leveraging “proprietary spam-fighting tools” to uncover other “potentially violating accounts for review”.

“We have already seen results, including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter,” the social network said.

In the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks governments have made fresh efforts to pressure large technology enterprises into being more responsible about policing content on their services, and the communications that go through them.

Twitter said it has attended over 40 countering violent extremism (CVE) events on four continents, partnered with organisations such as People Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue to “empower credible non-governmental voices against violent extremism”, and attended a number of government-convened summits on counter-terrorism.

The company added: “As an open platform for expression, we have always sought to strike a balance between the enforcement of our own Twitter rules covering prohibited behaviours, 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.

“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.

“In spite of these challenges, we will continue to aggressively enforce our rules in this area, and engage with authorities and other relevant organisations to find solutions to this critical issue and promote powerful counter-speech narratives.”

Twitter is not alone in taking a stand against extremism. Facebook established its Online Civil Courage Initiative in January, and pledged over €1 million to support non-governmental organisations in their efforts to counter racism and xenophobia online.