Twitter Suspends Hundreds Of Thousands Of Terrorist Accounts, Gives Everyone Its 'Quality Filter'

from the today-twitter-settles-all-its-business dept

Twitter’s had a bit of a busy day. It made two big announcements within an hour, first saying that it had suspended 235,000 accounts since February for “promoting terrorism.” It followed that up by announcing that it was opening up its “quality filter” for everyone. The quality filter used to only be available to “verified accounts” and was apparently one of the few actual benefits for being a “verified” account. Here’s how Twitter explains it:

When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience. It does not filter content from people you follow or accounts you?ve recently interacted with ? and depending on your preferences, you can turn it on or off in your notifications settings.

From people who have it, they’ve indicated that it can do a decent, but not perfect, job in blocking purely trollish behavior. However, I still think that my own suggestion from last week makes more sense: rather than building a universal algorithm like this, give every user the tools to build their own quality filters (and to share the “recipes” of those filters). Not everyone has the same determination of what “quality” is. It’s fine if Twitter wants to offer its own such filter, but why not open it up and let anyone create quality filters to use and share?

As for the removal of terrorist accounts, this still feels kind of pointless. Twitter talks about how it’s getting faster at removing these accounts, and they’re not able to build up many followers before they’re shut down again, making Twitter a less useful platform for terrorist or terrorist supporters to use. But, again, if we think about Twitter as a protocol like email or a system like the telephone, this feels… weird. No one’s clamoring for “we must stop ISIS from making phone calls.” Besides, the intelligence community has said, repeatedly, that they get good intel from watching ISIS’ social media activity. Shutting down their accounts may seem like a good thing (no one wants ISIS using their technology…), but what if it’s actually making it more difficult for the intelligence community to track them?

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Comments on “Twitter Suspends Hundreds Of Thousands Of Terrorist Accounts, Gives Everyone Its 'Quality Filter'”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:

Very uncomfortable

Twitter can do what it wants, obviously, but I’m very uncomfortable with this business about “deleting terrorist accounts”. How are they determining what counts as worthy of deletion? Twitter isn’t saying, but they admit that it’s a bit of a “know it when you see it” thing:

As we mentioned in February, and other companies and experts have also noted, there is no one “magic algorithm” for identifying terrorist content on the Internet.

Also, they seem to be combining two entirely different things: accounts which advocate violence, and accounts which appear to be supportive of terrorist groups. I’m OK with the former — it’s usually very clear when someone is urging violent action — but I’m not OK with the latter. What counts as “supportive”? What counts as a “terrorist group”?

What ensures that people won’t be silenced just because they express strong criticism of their government, or because they were engaging in discussion about a terrorist group?

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: No one's clamoring for "we must stop ISIS from making phone calls."

If you read the strict, plain English, dictionary definition meaning of the words in the federal statute that defines what terrorism is as far as the US is concerned, most police departments qualify as terrorist organizations.

The only thing preventing President Obama from matching every single criteria for being a domestic terrorist is he has never (as far as we know) ordered a drone strike on US citizens within US borders.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No one's clamoring for "we must stop ISIS from making phone calls."

what else would cause a cars engine to be 100 feet from the site of the crash if not by an explosion?

That spurting column of water neat the crash could easily explain the removal of the engine especially if the car leap onto the hydrant that used to be their due to the kerb, while a missile strike would probably have done a much better RUD of the car.

Norahc says:

That's the purpose

“But what if it’s actually making it more difficult for the intelligence community to track them?”

That’s the bonus to this plan…making it more difficult to track terrorists means that the intelligence community can go and say they need more funding and more surveillance powers to fight terrorists. Never miss a chance to pad your budget or increase your fiefdoms seems to be the mantra.

AJ says:

Re: Re: So how come

I’m going to have to agree with the libs on this one, shutting them down is dumb. What they should do is track them, figure out where they are, then have Obama personally fly the drone on in for the strike.. FREEDOM!

“Bush authorized approximately 50 drone strikes that killed 296 terrorists and 195 civilians in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, Obama has authorized 506 strikes that have killed 3,040 terrorists and 391 civilians. “

Bonus points, I used a (arguably)lib paper for my facts 🙂

Kenpachi says:

Seriously Mike?

How far do you think you can stretch the phone call analogy?

Is it possible you’ve rooted so deep the concept of “internet and its services as public utilities”, (fundamentally a good thing, but in one breath conflate the use of a multimedia platform, a social network with “a phone call”? or even multiple phone calls? Really?

You know better than that, why’re you stretching concepts and the real, measurable impact of things so different in nature and scope?

A tweet, or a collection of them, with audio, video, text, links to other content, etc etc, that becomes a de facto platform for propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, or, if used properly, dissemination of useful information.

In the wrong hands i.e. used with criminal intent (only one of them being of the terroristic flavor) becomes a megaphone to bring and brainwash people to support a cause. The measurable potential to propagandize, radicalize, and brainwash people, en mass, is orders of magnitude greater than with a phone call, or even multiple phone calls.

Should I also point out that your one dimensional analysis almost only contemplates this idea that “terrorist use a social network, (a broadcasting platform, to spread their doctrine especially to those that do not belong to their ranks), as merely a communication system that they only use to communicate among themselves? Again, seriously? Why would you go that route? I know you know better.

In the end you even go so far as to make a case for the intelligence agencies of the world and a supposed hindrance in their ability to collect valuable intel. If that’s the case, I submit that we are well past the point of total doom: if you suggest that spy agencies depend on the existence of social networks and other forums to track and strategize to tackle the terrorism threat, that’s such an insult to everybody’s intelligence that I wouldn’t even know where to start to point out the amount of errors and the lack of knowledge in such a statement.

Even I, a run of the mill nobody, can think of ten ways of tracking and keeping tabs on terror elements, while at the same time, preventing them from brainwashing new recruits into their cause.

So, your thesis is that, if not for anything else, Twitter et al. should let ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other groups roam freely everywhere they see fit, leverage the power to broadcast their message, potentially to millions of people, all around the world, with each tweet, with each video, with each Facebook post, all because they also could do the same with phone calls?!

One tweet: potentially seen by hundreds of thousands of people all across the globe. One phone call… Oh I see, that’s exactly the same!…my bad… smh

One YouTube video (or any other video platform): seen and shared by potentially millions, radicalizing and antagonizing young people, gullible people, depressed people, etc. Bringing new blood to their ranks, or new victims they can rape and enslave, then sell and ultimately kill, as happens routinely… All of that is just the same “as making phone calls”

How can we not see that they could achieve the exact same thing just by robo-calling everyone to their cell phones, or even to their land lines, Mathew Broderic “War Games” style… IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO CONVEY MIKE?

TL;DR: I’ve been a long time reader of this amazing web site. I honestly think you’re one of “the good guys” (whatever that means). But lately I’ve sadly seen you slowly but surely descend into the SJW regressive left mentality, and it’s really a sad thing to be a witness of.

I keep coming back, because I really think your heart is in the right place, you want to make this fucked up world a better place, but you insult the intelligence of your readers at large, reaching at straws, making ridiculous posts defending Hillary when no rational defense is possible, attacking and distorting Trump’s words, taking him out of context…

The whole Gawker, Thiel, Hogan debacle, you keep trying to sell poisonous snake oil the vast majority of people will just never buy, your arguments hardly making any sense, I can point out several flaws and lack of honesty in every point you make in that matter, but I still refrain from it. I don’t want to contribute to more hate, division, and ultimately more separation of the minds and wills. But that doesn’t mean I or anyone else for that matter, is tacitly conceding your views.

Yeah, I know, you will quickly label me a red-neck Trump supporter, GamerGate basement man-child, butt-hurt and all that jazz, to dismiss my criticism… Sad indeed.

What would that say, if all that where true, given the fact that I’m a regular to this website for years now…

In closing, I sincerely hope you take a step back, and ponder deeply upon many core philosophical issues. And of course, I’m the first to acknowledge and admit I’m no where near a nirvana state where I think it’s me “who has all the answers, or who has the moral high-ground or it’s me who has all figured out, while you’re clearly in the wrong”

Far from it. And for the record, I too think Trump will be a tragic event for the whole world, if he becomes the next President. But also with the Democrat’s option. Notice I did not use the word “democratic” in that last sentence.

Nothing, not even a resemblance of anything democratic about the Clinton Clan and their ilk.

Anyway, I guess I took the opportunity to let you know how I feel about you as a journalist (or how-ever you like to think of yourself), a social communicator, a lawyer, you put the label, that’s not important.

I still cling to the hope that this site won’t become yet another regressive leftist hub, where the most despicable aspects of the human conduct are rationalized, legitimized and justified. Because reasons.

Take care, I hope you read this.

PS: I’d love to have a talk with you and discuss, with the level of detail you prefer, all the posts you made that I strongly disagree with, and all the points of contention I have with each of them.

Cause right now, everyone and their mother is getting more desperate by the minute, no-one can figure Trump out, no angle seems to be working in discouraging people from voting for him. On the contrary, he’s getting stronger and stronger with each passing day, and that, as contradictory as it may seem given my past statements, is a good thing in the grander scheme.

It’s so easy, it’s so simple… It’s so easy to understand, both him and his supporters, the mindset, the physiological profile of the men and women who want him to win the next election over Clinton.

But that would demand a fundamental willingness to delve into gray areas and nuances, it’s a multi-pronged layered issue, not black and white, not republicans vs democrats, not privileged white cis males against regressive feminists, none of that BS.

It so simple really… and it would be so easy for the leftist main stream media to undermine his cause, and it’s hilarious to me to see how they fail time and time again, so far deep in their own flaws that they are effectively impaired from seeing it. It’s a sort of intellectual, moral and ethical handicap.

Both a sad picture to behold, but at the same time a thing of beauty seeing such a moral reprobate bunch swing and miss every time, and only dig a deeper hole for themselves…

Anyway rant off. Bye. I’ll look forward to seeing Regressive Jack Dorsey backpedal on that decision and broadcast to every terrorist organization that their platform is open for business as usual, that they can help themselves, just go to town, because “Think of the NSA!! is the new “think of the children” or something like that”

Or because “it’s the same with phone calls, or written letters”!!

Hey, don’t look at me… Mike Misenik told me so… so it must be the right thing to do, that’s where morality lives, safe from floods, and the melting of the poles.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Seriously Mike?

A tweet, or a collection of them, with audio, video, text, links to other content, etc etc, that becomes a de facto platform for propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, or, if used properly, dissemination of useful information.

And? You should be the one curating it? Maybe the Chinese? Many will disagree. I’d rather have things flowing and being countered by more speech instead of risking banning innocent users.

Seems most of your argument hoovers around the brainwashing thing and how somebody must nanny the poor, dumb citizenry (including trump). Seems to me that you are the one that bought into the ‘fear narrative’ the Govts are touting to strip citizens of their rights.

The espionage agency part is also wrong. He is pointing out that banning terrorist accounts helps nobody, even the intel. In no part he supported them.

As some further reading to better enlighten you on nuances I personally liked this article. Trump goes beyond mere disinformation. The far right turn Europe is taking has deeper roots than mere disinformation.

Kenpachi says:

Re: Re: Seriously Mike?

“And? You should be the one curating it? Maybe the Chinese? Many will disagree”

Did you just categorize the task of no giving terrorist organizations a place in social media platforms “curation”?

“Banning terrorists accounts helps nobody”

Wow. Just wow.

The insane really want to run things nowadays… smh and on the back of the white horse of moral high-ground no less ROFL

Please, do keep explaining why Europe has taken a hard turn to the right. But please, don’t forget #Brexitdindunothing!

17 million disinformed ignorant peasants, and a bunch of old people, right?

And that’s why you have absolutely no clue why peaceful citizens of western modernity think and vote the way they are voting, and leaning to the right en mass?

Want to keep on piling more insults, fallacies and ad-hominems while conflating 100 different topics into one?

I’m more convinced than ever, the only point in the political spectrum that has any chance of saving western democratic modern civilization, everything humankind has achieved so far, is the conservative hard right.

I didn’t say the extreme right nor right wing nationalists, neither moderate right wing, but solid in their convictions peaceful conservatives.

But hey, the dice are rolling already, will see who is right soon. Hopefully avoiding WW3 AND saving modern western civilization.

Padpaw (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Seriously Mike?

hiding information on people doing bad things doesn’t stop it from happening just gives everyone else a false sense of security that is easily exploited for more attacks.

better to show what they are doing so people can better prepare for it, and to counter it.

We are less safe now than prior to the constant security theatre caused by 9/11 according to those same security analysts. For some reason everything that is done to hide what has been happening and shut down or lock up anyone that is disagreed with has put people in more danger.

Kenpachi says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Seriously Mike?

“hiding information on people doing bad things doesn’t stop it from happening”

You conflate so much different concepts and ideas that it boggles the mind.

“bla bla bla false sense of security bla bla bla security theater bla bla bla catchy sound bites to sound cool and knowledgeable bla bla bla”

That’s what I get when reading your comment.

Let’s take your template to “avoid” what you claim to contribute to those things and apply them to other human conducts such as those described in this opinion piece. Let’s see what we come up with and see if it makes sense, or better yet, is justified or legitimized:

“hiding information disseminated by terrorist doesn’t stop it from happening” therefore no one should opposed such dissemination. That contributes to a false sense of security. FACEPALM OVER 9000

Let’s continue shall we? Cause why stop there, after all, there’re a lot of people doing “bad things” and we would not want to engage in anything to prevent or curtail that don’t we?

“hiding child pornography disseminated by pedophiles doesn’t stop it from happening” it follows that no one should oppose that. Anyone that does it only contributes to “security theater”. SMH “Let’s plaster every social network with child/revenge porn! Starting with Twitter!! Child porn for everybody yey!! /s

Please kill me now.

“hiding information about kidnappers, murderers, rapists or drug cartels doesn’t stop kidnappings, murders, rapes or drug addiction from happening” Therefore how dare someone oppose giving a platform to display, exchange, strategize, disseminate such content!! Only a censorious authoritarian would suggest such a thing! Right?!?!?

I’m downing a gallon of bleach after I finished writing this response.

TL;DR please, engage in critical thinking before throwing catchy sentences so overused and misplaced that have been deprived at this point of almost all meaning. But please, do so while remaining true to your rhetorical M.O.: quickly point out how I summoned the Four Horsemen of the Internet Apocalypse.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Seriously Mike?

“Twitter et al. should let ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other groups roam freely everywhere they see fit, leverage the power to broadcast their message, potentially to millions of people, all around the world, with each tweet, with each video, with each Facebook post,”

Twitter, as well as all the other private platforms, can do what it likes.

However, I am very opposed the idea that censoring propaganda, etc., is a good and desirable thing. It’s the direct opposite of that.

If Twitter (or whoever) is shutting down accounts because they’re abusive, consist of violent threats, etc., then I congratulate them.

If, however, they are shutting down accounts that don’t do these things but are instead run by “terrorists” or are used for recruitment, propaganda, or any other protected speech, then I condemn them.

Kenpachi says:

Re: Re: Seriously Mike?

“Twitter, as well as all the other private platforms, can do what it likes.”

First, establishing your “credentials” as a free speech libertarian, in an attempt to portray yourself as righteous and just, so you can legitimize your very next statement:

“I am very opposed to the idea that censoring propaganda, etc., is a good and desirable thing. It’s the direct opposite of that.”

Ultimate face-palm. The very utterance of that whole statement hurts my brain. That should appear in every dictionary when looking for the quintessential example of Doublespeak.

“If Twitter (or whoever) is shutting down accounts because they’re abusive, consist of violent threats, etc., then I congratulate them.”

I’m going to stop right here in deconstructing your words and statements, I refuse to entertain your outlook on the world as holding any value whatsoever. I’ll just leave everyone with the following thought:

Your entire response, word for word, is perfectly consistent with the discourse we could (and do hear) from any terrorist leader, leftist political authority currently holding a political position, and rabid feminist wanna-be authoritarians.

And people at large wonder where all the backlash, resistance and criticism are coming from.

But let your statement sink in for a moment. Read again your whole statement and engage in this simple thought experiment: picture an ISIS leader, or a leftist European politician or a rabid feminist, standing in front of a podium, and lecturing the citizenry at large, reciting your comment verbatim.

Both the structure and meaning of your words is 100% consistent with the social, emotional and psychological rhetorical warfare they try to impose in Western Democratic Societies. Words like yours is what we hear from these actors every chance a microphone passes near them.

Totalitarians, Authoritarians, Fascist, will never win a battle of ideas, and can never win a clash of cultures, not even by the use of force. So now they resort to other more subtle tactics to undermine democratic values and the foundations of the only form of human organization that can provide true freedom and any chance at prosperity and realization to each individual and societies at large.

The separation of State and Religion; A clear and independent establishment of three branches of government, legislative, judicial and executive branches are there for a reason. Parliament, Congress, an executive chain of command. A Supreme Court, and all other courts below it. All institutions to prevent the rise of tyrants and wanna-be genocides.

And now, well into the 21st century, we are witnessing yet again a relentless attack on the only form of organization that has any chance at ensuring the advancement of humankind. Representative Democracy is far from perfect: it’s plagued with its worst parasites, corruption, impunity and bureaucracy. But it’s the best system human kind could come up with so far. Either that or carnage ensues. That’s History in a nutshell.

But please, don’t mind me pointing out your disgraceful views. Say hi to George Orwell and Franz Kafka if you see them in the afterlife. I’m sure you’d take their words literally, and take them as instruction manuals to build your ideal world, where terrorist SHOULD have not one, but any and all platforms, to spread their propaganda and political agenda, and YOU celebrate that.


This is a more appropriate response to your views, and with far more patience than I could ever muster. And please, change that hair cut.

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