Twitter has removed more than 125,000 accounts linked to terrorists since mid-2015, the company announced, offering some of the most detailed look yet at how Silicon Valley is working with Western governments in their fight against the Islamic state.
The company’s media is based on a mixture of human judgment and technology development teams of specialists in the US and Ireland to comb through thousands of suspicious accounts.
Isis has also been linked to automated accounts, or “bots” which churn out extremist rhetoric. Sometimes these automated accounts can be captured with the tools normally used to combat spam.
“We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorist violence,” the company said in a statement on 5 February. “This kind of behavior or threats of violence, is not allowed in our service.”
Twitter and other technology companies have long guarded its contents for any signs of Islamic extremism. Until recently they have not been willing to discuss the details of their policies or procedures that have been seen as controversial due to the complex and political nature of the trials behind the deletion of messages.
The procedures require specialists to make difficult decisions Twitter on tweets and individual accounts, including the extent to which it is a euphoric, controversial or extremist message.
These efforts also create risks for the company, which has often defined itself as a home for free speech and open debate. In 2014, then-CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo said he had received death threats for removal of content Isis Twitter.
But increasingly Western politicians have applied to the US technology firms to be more of an active combatant in the fight against Islamic extremism pressure. Until now, Silicon Valley appears to be receptive.
Speaking in Davos last month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg World Economic Forum suggested Isis could be stifled by posting anti-Isis Facebook content. In a closed meeting last month in San Jose with national security officials, she and other technology executives discussed the idea of using an algorithm to automatically treat the content of the flag of Isis.
Meanwhile, Google executives have discussed the idea of forcing operators ISIS public Internet.
Twitter is free, international, allows anyone to sign up for an account and publish what they want, it has become an attractive recruiting tool for terrorists. In 2015, the US military killed a British citizen who became Isis computer-hacker Junaid Hussain partly due to the way you use Twitter to plan attacks in the West.
In its statement Friday, Twitter said it has seen “increased account suspensions and this type of activity shifting Twitter”.
But the company pushed against the growing idea that Silicon Valley can invent a formula to detect this online traffic automatically. “There is no ‘magic algorithm’ to identify the terrorist content on the Internet,” said a spokesman. “Global online platforms are forced to make decisions in challenging judgment based on limited information and guidance.”
At a forum in Palo Alto last month, a spokeswoman for Facebook said the same.
“I’ve been on Facebook for three months and have yet to see Magical algorithm,” said Anne Kornblut, director of strategic communications for the company, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.