Twitter Inc has shut down more than 125,000 terrorism-related accounts since the middle of 2015, most of them linked to the Islamic State group, the company said in a blog post.
Twitter has said it only takes down accounts when they are reported by other users, but said that it has increased the size of teams monitoring and responding to reports and has decreased its response time “significantly.”
When accounts are reported, Twitter said it looks at ones that are similar and uses spam-fighting tools to identify other violent accounts, which it said has resulted in more suspensions.
The announcement was especially notable because Twitter has said little about its efforts to combat Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and similar groups even though it has been criticized for not doing enough to stop Islamist militants and their supporters from using the service.
Islamic State, which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq, has heavily relied on the 300 million-person site, as well as others, to recruit fighters and propagate violent messages and videos.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s program on extremism and a co-author of a report “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa,” said Friday’s report showcased an “impressive number” of takedowns, but he cautioned that Twitter still appears to police extremist content in a mostly “episodic” way.
The U.S. government has pressured technology companies to cooperate and help them identify terror-related accounts, though Silicon Valley has been wary of engaging with government officials.
In January, a high-profile delegation of top national security officials met tech industry leaders from Twitter, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, and Google parent Alphabet Inc, but most companies, including Twitter, did not send their chief executive officers.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called Twitter’s announcement a “very positive development,” but said more was needed.
“Addressing the use of social media by terrorists will require a sustained and cooperative effort between the technology sector, the Intelligence Community, and law enforcement,” he said.
Still, Twitter said in a blog post that it has cooperated with law enforcement when appropriate.
“There is no ‘magic algorithm’ for identifying terrorist content on the internet,” Twitter added in its blog post.
It said that it tries to strike a balance between enforcing its rules on prohibited behaviors, the needs of law enforcement and the desire by users to share their views – including offensive ones.