James Foley beheading: Twitter 'actively suspending' accounts sharing graphic imagery

The micro-blogging site is cracking down on propoganda spread by terrorist group Isis, but users are also taking matters into their own hands

Twitter has announced that it is cracking down on the spread of gory images after video and screenshots apparently showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley were widely shared this Wednesday.

CEO Dick Costolo said that the company was “actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery,” before linking to a New York Times article about Foley’s death.

The micro-blogging site has recently said that it is stepping up its efforts to suspend accounts affiliated with the terrorist group Isis, although it will also take into account the public interest factor and “newsworthiness of the content”.

The crackdown has affected journalists as well, with Radio Sawa correspondent Zaid Benjamin - who seems to have broken the news of Foley’s death – reporting that his account was temporarily suspended and that his original tweet linking to a YouTube video of the event was deleted.

Twitter’s rules state that users most not “publish or post direct, specific threats of violence” but relies on reports from the public to identify infringing content.

The US government is also known to report violating material, with the White House confirming that it had asked “relevant social media sites” to take “appropriate action” following the publication of the Foley footage.

Twitter recently updated its policy regarding the removal of “media concerning a deceased family member,” although it seems that these clarifications were put in place in response to Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda quitting Twitter after users sent her graphic, Photoshopped images of her deceased father.

Read more: video shows militant 'execute US journalist'
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Twitter has declined to say whether or not they were contacted by Mr Foley’s relations regarding their decision to remove the footage, although The Washington Post states that the company has “chosen to put that call on [the family]”.

Speaking to the paper, Google’s former director of global public policy Andrew McLaughlin outlined the dilemma facing companies like Twitter, who have become de facto publishers as they break news around the world.

“It's awful that these photos were taken, and it's awful that this moment happened, but their very existence is news. It's the sort of thing that moves history,” said Mr McLaughlin.

Twitter’s users meanwhile have taken their own actions, urging others not to share gruesome pictures of Foley that only play into the interests of Isis. Similarly, the hashtag #ISISMediaBlackout trended following the release of the footage:

ISIS has become notorious for its use of social media, using platforms such as Twitter and YouTube to post propoganda, recruit new members and talk to Western media.

However, with Syria and Iraq (the group's area of operation) known to be the most dangerous nations for working journalists, on-the-ground reporting from the area has become scarce, further allowing Isis to distort the coverage of their actions.

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