The social media giant Twitter has suspended 125,000 accounts linked to the Islamic State in the last six months as part of its effort to shut down terrorist activity on its site, the company announced Friday.
In the middle of 2015, Twitter began suspending social media accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist attacks and recruiting new ISIS members, the company wrote on its blog.
“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.”
Twitter has a team of programmers who monitor the platform to ensure users stay within its written guidelines, but the site largely relies on users to alert the company about violations.
Friday’s announcement is the first time Twitter has shared information about its efforts to stop ISIS and other terrorists from using its services.
The social media company has come under pressure from the Obama administration in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and San Bernardino mass shooting to do more to stop ISIS and other terrorists using its platform.
Along with suspending the 125,000 ISIS-associated accounts, Twitter has also increased the size of its review team and introduced new spam software to track potentially violating accounts, the company reported.
“We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism. As the nature of the terrorist threat has changed, so has our ongoing work in this area.”
Gunmen in both the Paris terrorist attacks and the San Bernardino mass shooting viewed extremist material on the Internet although it’s not clear that they communicated their plans using social media.
The government is concerned about the ease with which ISIS and other terrorist groups engage in conversation and recruitment on social media and has been pressuring Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites to do more to limit access to terrorists.
Government officials met technology company executives in California’s Silicon Valley in January to discuss possible techniques to stop ISIS and other terror groups from using social media to recruit new members.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation that would require social media sites to alert law enforcement if they found terrorist activity on their websites. That was the same day Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called on Silicon Valley to “disrupt” ISIS activity, according to the USA Today.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a shutdown of the internet in ISIS-controlled Syria and Iraq to help stem the tide of terrorism. He suggested the U.S. government contact Bill Gates to help.
Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook must walk a fine line between working with the government and allowing users free rein on their platforms. After Edward Snowden, they were accused of working too closely with the government, but they’ve also been sued by private individuals for allowing terrorists to communicate on their platforms.
A Brooking Institute study released in March found 46,000 Twitter accounts were used by ISIS to spread messages quickly and effectively.
The study prompted Twitter executives to step up efforts to stop the terrorists from using their platform, according to the company.
“There is no “magic algorithm” for identifying terrorist content on the Internet, so global online platforms are forced to make challenging judgment calls based on very limited information and guidance.”
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