Twitter cracks down on accounts promoting terrorism

Twitter has been stepping up its fight against terrorism, pulling down accounts that promote violence before users even send their first tweet.

The San Francisco tech firm said Tuesday it suspended 299,649 accounts for promoting terrorism from January to June 2017.

Twitter said most of these accounts — about 95 percent — were flagged by the company’s spam-fighting tools instead of through government requests. About 75 percent of these accounts were suspended before their first tweet.

“These tools enable us to take signals from accounts found to be in violation of our (Terms of Service) and to work to continuously strengthen and refine the combinations of signals that can accurately surface accounts that may be similar,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.

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Twitter declined to share anymore details about the tools the company is using, noting the tech firm does not “want to provide information that could be used to try to avoid detection.”

From August 2015 to June 2017, Twitter pulled down 935,897 accounts for promoting terrorism, according to the company’s biannual transparency report.

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, other tech firms including Facebook and YouTube have been trying to stop terrorists from using their sites even as the companies weigh free-speech concerns.

Terrorist groups have used social media to recruit more followers and promote violence. Experts, though, say that terrorists have also migrated to encrypted messaging services, including Telegram, to recruit followers.

Twitter, which has 328 million users, has seen the number of government requests increase. In the first half of this year, the company received 6,448 information requests, an uptick of about 6 percent compared to the last half of 2016.

Twitter provided data for about 60 percent of those requests.

Requests from U.S. authorities made up most of these requests, but the total amount decreased from the last six months of 2016 to the first half of 2017.

In the United States, authorities in Washington, D.C., had the most requests, followed by California, New York and Virginia.

Photo: The Twitter building is photographed Dec. 14, 2015 in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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