Twitter's bold move to purge terrorism and extremism from the social media platform

Posted September 1

Twitter is receiving some praise after announcing that the company has suspended 235,000 accounts over the past six months for violating the social media platform's "policies related to promotion of terrorism."

The total number of accounts that have been suspended by Twitter since mid-2015 for this reason now stands at 360,000, according to an Aug. 18 company blog post.

This latest announcement follows an earlier statement from Twitter in February that revealed 125,000 accounts had been suspended from mid-2015 through the beginning of 2016.

Twitter apparently decided to dig deeper after that first purge, with the company affirming that its work to remedy the issue is nowhere near over.

"Since that (original) announcement, the world has witnessed a further wave of deadly, abhorrent terror attacks across the globe," the latest statement read. "We strongly condemn these acts and remain committed to eliminating the promotion of violence or terrorism on our platform."

The moves come as Islamic State terrorists and sympathizers have turned to social media to spread their hateful messages.

In addition to detailing these account suspensions, Twitter noted that the company's moves against these individuals have been swift, especially in the wake of various attacks; Twitter believes that a faster response has been key.

"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 statement read.

Twitter has grown its team and its capabilities of late so that the platform can more readily respond to reports surrounding questionable users, with efforts also being made to stop people from coming immediately back to the platform after their accounts have been suspended, according to the statement.

In addition to utilizing new technologies to try to pinpoint Islamic State and terror-aligned accounts, Twitter is also partnering through its Public Policy team with organizations across the globe that work to stop extremism on the Internet.

The latest move to ban terror-supporting accounts has gained the support of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to fight anti-Semitism. The organization released a statement last week saying that Twitter has "set the right tone" when it comes to battling "nefarious content on its platform."

"By suspending accounts that have regularly promoted terror and other deeply troubling content, Twitter has taken an important step forward in combating cyberhate," Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. "For several years, we have witnessed how terror groups aggressively exploit social media."

He went on to praise efforts to "remove the most horrendous content" from platforms like Twitter.

Twitter also launched its Trust and Safety Council back in February — an effort aimed at ensuring that "people feel safe expressing themselves" on the platform. A variety of organizations joined on to work with Twitter to carry out this goal.

Among them are "community groups with an acute need to prevent abuse, harassment, and bullying, as well as mental health and suicide prevention."

The Anti-Defamation League launched its own efforts to help the public more readily report online hate and abuse with the 2013 creation of its "ADL Cyber-Safety Action Guide," which allows people to submit complaints to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and YouTube, among others.

Anil Dash, an activist and blogger, told The New York Times that these moves are beneficial, but that Twitter can still be used by extremists to organize in troubling ways, such as by sharing home addresses and other personal information.

"The news about banned accounts and new tools is really good, but Twitter has been doing those things for a long time," Dash told the outlet. "This has more to do with Twitter’s ability to talk about abuse than it is a big change in policy."

It is a widely known fact that the Islamic State, among others, has encouraged and adopted the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to spread terror.

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