Terrorist groups like ISIS use social media to rally support around the world, using sites like Twitter to mobilize sympathizers into possible plots. But in a blog post today, Twitter says that kind of behavior flagrantly violates its terms of service, and reports that it’s suspended tens of thousands pro-ISIS accounts since May.
“We have increased the size of the teams that review reports, reducing our response time significantly,” the company states. “We also look into other accounts similar to those reported and leverage proprietary spam-fighting tools to surface other potentially violating accounts for review by our agents.”
Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook are in a tough position—there’s an obvious problem, and they want to look like they’re doing something. Deactivating explicitly pro-ISIS accounts is helpful, but the sites’ lofty missions to “ban terrorism” are broad and vague and placating. And Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg went so far last month as to say “likes” somehow discredit terrorist propaganda on Facebook. These “strategies” seem out-of-touch and straight out of the PR playbook, but canning 125,000 Twitter accounts is still impressive: The Brookings Institute recently estimated that only 90,000 terrorist accounts existed worldwide.
Twitter reminds us there’s no “magic algorithm” to completely halting extremist activity online, and it often involves making judgment calls based on very little information. The responsibility that falls on social media tech companies, however, is undeniable.
Image: AP file