Twitter Takes a Hard Line on “Terrorist” Tweets

While some social media platforms are taking a more passive approach to combating terrorism online, Twitter has taken a very proactive approach, and the site doesn’t seem worried about who they might offend. In the past six months, Twitter has suspended nearly 380,000 accounts for promoting terrorism … and they say they’re far from finished.

This information was published in the company’s biannual “transparency report,” which details ways in which Twitter is moderating content on its social media platform.

According to Twitter, the vast majority of accounts were suspended using “internal spam-fighting tools…” Only two percent were the result of government requests to delete accounts or content. The rest were the result of a combination of active software looking for rogue accounts as well as user reports, which Twitter addresses very aggressively.

Twitter was one of the first social media platforms to explicitly target extremism in many of its forms. Back in 2015, the company started rolling out methods other platforms have been slower to adopt or perfect. Then, in 2016, Twitter partnered with other anti-terrorism groups to train its team in how to detect and defuse terrorist activity on social media.

Other platforms are not exactly doing nothing about the problem. Facebook and Google are using passive tools that remove “extremist content” when they find it, but Facebook is trying to marshal “counter-speech” from its vast network, while also encouraging users to make and/or share positive and inclusive content. Unsurprisingly, many users are not lining up to directly challenge terrorists or terrorist sympathizers posting online.

Which brings us back to why Twitter is being heralded for their approach to this issue. Just alienating and banishing these accounts seems to be the most popular solution among rank and file users. That’s not to say it hasn’t upset some folks. When firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos saw his Twitter account permanently banned for making caustic, trollish and what many called racist posts, his 300,000 followers reacted strongly…by tweeting, of course. Very few, if any, actually closed their accounts in protest. So, it looked like Twitter came out ahead on that one … to everyone but Yiannopoulos.

Until his recent plummet from the good graces of the political right, Yiannopoulos used the Twitter ban to his advantage, stirring up his fans and breeding more followers who reveled in his exile from the mainstream. So, yes, this sort of action can have a counter-intuitive effect on a banned brand … but, for Twitter, it’s still well worth it to draw a definite line in the sand.

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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