Moral Panics: Twitter Feels Compelled To Tell You It's Deleted Over 125,000 Terrorist Twitter Accounts

from the what-good-has-that-really-done? dept

It seems we’ve entered the next big moral panic: the fact that terrorists like ISIS use social media. It’s a point of contention that keeps coming up, leading Presidential candidates to talk about stopping terrorists from using the internet. There was a whole big “summit” between White House officials and tech execs in which questions were raised about blocking ISIS from using social media. And, then, of course, you’ve even had some tech company execs support the idea.

And now, the inevitable followup on this is tech companies feeling the need to show just how “tough on terrorism” they are by highlighting how many people they’ve kicked off their service. Up first, Twitter. The company was just recently sued by a woman who lost her husband to an ISIS attack, in which she claims that Twitter is guilty of material support for terrorism, because it allowed ISIS to use Twitter to grow. And so now, Twitter feels the need to proudly highlight the removal of 125,000 terrorist accounts:

e 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. As the nature of the terrorist threat has changed, so has our ongoing work in this area. Since the middle of 2015 alone, we?ve suspended over 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.

Our efforts have not stopped there. We have increased the size of the teams that review reports, reducing our response time significantly. We also look into other accounts similar to those reported and leverage proprietary spam-fighting tools to surface other potentially violating accounts for review by our agents. We have already seen results, including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter.

Every company, of course, has the right to determine who can and who cannot use their service, but is this really the best response? Hell, just recently there was a situation in which an ISIS leader used Twitter and other social media platforms to try to urge more Muslims to join ISIS, and it turned into a ton of Muslims totally mocking ISIS.

When you start deleting accounts, you lose out on those kinds of interactions, which I would imagine are ridiculously more powerful than shutting down accounts of terrorists who will simply open up a new one hours later.

On top of that, merely deleting those Twitter accounts actually hides some information that can be used to track down ISIS members and see what they’re doing. Obviously no one wants to be seen “supporting” ISIS, but building a moral panic over the fact that they happen to use social media to spread idiotic ideas hardly seems helpful. If anything, it suggests that their messages are a lot more powerful than they really are. Shutting them down makes them think that what they’re saying is having an impact. Mocking them and laughing at them (or even ignoring them) shows that it’s having the opposite effect.

But, of course, for much of the media and many politicians, such nuance is not allowed. Instead the focus needs to be on shutting such accounts down. And that leads you to silly announcements like Twitter’s from last week.

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Comments on “Moral Panics: Twitter Feels Compelled To Tell You It's Deleted Over 125,000 Terrorist Twitter Accounts”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s a shame that those who support terrorism will now be harder to find. What was once easy will become hidden behind code words. China has found out that having a firewall to monitor citizen behavior doesn’t work all that well. Instead those who wish to side step what isn’t approved to be talked about will instead use code words to drag others off to other services. What they will not do is stop using the service, they will instead just hide it better making it more difficult to identify them.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Ahhh but the optics!! The optics matter to our leaders.

Feeling up little kids & cute people in TSA lines hasn’t made air travel safer. Hell it added more criminal interactions to our lives and the TSA put protecting the image over admitting there were criminal rings of TSA agents robbing passengers. TSA agents violated citizens rights, TSA sides with the agents even in the face of evidence proving the agent lied.

The optics – we are stopping terrorists online!!!
The reality – we are removing accounts & interactions where all of those ‘moderate’ Muslims, we demand show up and denounce ever act committed by people they have no connection with, mock them.

We create the optics that the terrorists are so successful recruiting online, and run their game unopposed. We have a few people ‘radicalized’ online but no one looks at what that means.

A teenager living in a city where there are attacks on people because of skin color or perceived faith, authorities who don’t care that much about those attacks but watch those Muslims with extreme caution because they are all secret terrorists. He talks about his frustrations online and hears a voice who cares.

So did the teen get radical because someone was nice to them, or because they felt targeted by a world that judges them by skin color/religion?

Its real easy to blame the tech for the much deeper problems we don’t want to admit to.

Anonymous Coward says:

It isn't about fighting terrorism...

When analyzing these kinds of public statements, you have to see things from the perspective of the company. Twitter only cares about minimizing risk for its shareholders. Twitter fears advertisers won’t spend money on their platform if it is associated with terrorism. Thus, the necessity of this “we are doing something” public relations piece.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is the very definition of slippery slope

Just recently, one of the largest gun channels on YouTube got shut down because their posts were going over to Google + (yes, it is still around). Apparently Google+ now has a no firearms policy. The channel didn’t use or even know that their posts to YouTube automagically went to Google+. It has now been cleared up, but soon many, many groups will be on the blacklist.

I know they are private companies, but they will eventually piss off nearly everyone because they will be a member of some group or another that is blacklisted. We will eventually only be allowed to talk about bunnies and unicorns.

Anonymous Coward says:

Did you get...

The US Congress, DHS, & Executive members of government as well?

Last time I checked they regularly terrorize the citizens with all sorts of propaganda to effect political change.

“Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;”

I don’t know about you, but saying we need to take your liberties to protect you from terrorists is the same as saying we wont protect you from terrorist unless you let us do what we want.

Richard (profile) says:

Could it have something to do with this?

There have been reports that Twitter has started to censor criticism of Islam – so of course they have to make
a gesture like this as a counterbalance.

Plus of course – as the article points out – by shutting down he terrorist linked accounts you also neuter the criticism/ridicule of the ideology behind it – and since Saudi Arabia shares the ideology its a win win for them.

Denis says:

Small correction

A correction: the Twitter user in the screenshot (Iyad El-Baghdadi) is NOT an ISIS leader, as written in the article. He might not have used the best choice of words (probably because he is not native English-speaking), but he is actually quoting ISIS leaders, and is not one himself.

This is actually clear for anyone having checked his Twitter profile and posts (

I just thought it was an important correction to make.

Anonymous Coward says:

Twitter has now gone overboard in deleting accounts by known political conservatives, who they consider “terrorists” to the Internet justice warrior’s imaginary “safe space.”

Minimum criteria for being a Twitter terrorist: unlawful possession of a Y chromosome.

I sooooooooo can’t wait for this turkey turd of a company to have a fire sale and be as financially bankrupt as it is ethically and certainly intellectually. The dodo goes extinct and nothing of value is lost.

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