Twitter shuts down 125,000 Isis-linked accounts

Move comes after the wife of an American killed by Isis blamed Twitter for his death

Matt Broomfield
Saturday 06 February 2016 11:07 GMT
A still from a recent ISIS propaganda video
A still from a recent ISIS propaganda video

125,000 Twitter accounts with alleged links to Isis have been suspended since mid-2015, the social media company announced on Friday.

The majority of the accounts were said to be linked to extremist groups such as Isis, al-Qaeda and the Islamist Syrian milita the al-Nusra front, though some had links to other terror organisations.

"Like most people around the world, we are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by extremist groups," the company said in a statement.

As well as suspending accounts, they note that they have increased the size of their teams and the power of their algorithms dedicated to reviewing potentially harmful content.

Following an update in December 2015, Twitter rules place a blanket ban on "hateful conduct", while their policy on violent threats explicitly states "You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism."

But the statement also noted the difficulties in identifying pro-Isis tweets in the absence of a "magic algorithm" capable of pinpointing genuinely terrorist content online.

Describing itself as an "open platform for expression", the website further discussed the difficulty of striking a balance between the prohibition of certain behaviours online and their desire to be a forum for free speech and debate.

In January, the wife of an American citizen who was killed in an Isis bombing in Jordan filed a court case against Twitter, blaming them for her husband's death.

"Without Twitter, the explosive growth of Isis over the last few years into the most-feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," ran the complaint.

As such, the decision to announce the suspension of these accounts is being understood in some quarters as a well-timed PR move.

The company has previously been criticised for taking a laissez-faire approach towards improper use of the platform it provides.

According to its own internal "transparency report", the website did not honour any of the removal requests it received from the US government between January and June last year.

In a memo leaked in February 2015, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo wrote to staff: "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls. It's no secret and the world talks about it every day."

In February of this year, a parody account set up to criticise Twitter's failure to suspend abusive tweets and accounts was itself suspended, while the company has also mistakenly suspended the account of a leading Arab Spring activist.

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