Twitter's Latest Transparency Report Reveals a Huge Rise in Terrorist Account Shutdowns

It's that time of the year again - Twitter have released their most recent transparency report, covering activity from July 1st to December 31st of last year. Perhaps the most striking revelation is that, in that short time, they have shut down 376,890 accounts owing to "violations related to promotion of terrorism".

That means that more than 636,000 accounts have been closed on the grounds of terrorist suspicion since August 2015. Figuring out the exact percent margins is somewhat beyond my mathematical ability, but if you figure that they closed around 260,000 accounts between August 2015 and July 2016, and then 377,000 in the subsequent 6 months, you can see what an epic increase that is.

As impressive as that is, it still leads you to wonder just how many more terrorist accounts are lurking on the platform, and whether Twitter have even really made a dent. In order to get even this far with it, they have had to develop a host of new identification tools, and dedicate a whole team of investigators to the task.

The good news is that the more accounts they flag, the better Twitter get at finding them. Every shuttered account undergoes a kind of autopsy, picking out characteristics which are then added to the evidence list given to the AI watchdogs. The longer that list gets, the easier it becomes to identify terrorist promotion.

Any further detail on how these AI systems work is shrouded in mystery. For reasons which should be fairly obvious, Twitter don't like to talk about it, nor about how they stop the accounts they shutter from rejoining under new credentials.

This is becoming an ever more serious issue. Earlier this week, the self-proclaimed 'Islamic State' took credit for yet another act - the attack in Westminster. Several officials have cited social media recruitment as a key cause for the recent increase in terrorist attacks. Last year, Twitter, Facebook, Google and others all attended a summit where they met representatives from the US and France to discuss how to better deal with this issue. It seems like Twitter are currently getting the most done.

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