Twitter is tightening its rules on “abusive behaviour and hateful conduct” – in a move which could result in thousands of Islamic State-affiliated accounts being deleted.
The company has been criticised in the past for not doing enough to stop the terror group from using the social media site for recruitment and propaganda purposes.
Although Twitter’s refreshed rules do not mention IS by name, they state: “You may not promote violence or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”
One of the most immediate challenges facing the micro-blogging site will be removing the thousands of IS-linked accounts which are already live, and permanently barring repeat offenders who simply open new profiles with a slightly altered username when their account is suspended.
It is hoped the detailed guidelines will make it easier for users to report profiles which break the rules. Until now, Twitter only had a generic warning that people who promoted or threatened “violence against others” would be banned.
In March, a report by the Brookings Institute suggested that the extremist group had operated more than 46,000 Twitter accounts between September 2014 and December 2014.
Some of those were used to circulate distressing videos of Islamic State hostages, including humanitarian workers and journalists, being executed.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, of the Los Angeles-based Digital Terrorism and Hate Project, believes “terrorists and hate groups will leave” if Twitter enforces its new rules – however, the tech company has not revealed how it intends to handle policy violations.
Announcing the changes in a blog post, Twitter’s director of trust and safety said its steps to clamp down on abuse were in order to protect freedom of expression.
Megan Cristina explained: “As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs, but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse.”
On Tuesday The Times reported that the Government is planning to introduce new laws which could see Facebook and Twitter employees jailed for two years if they notify suspected criminals and terrorists that their accounts are being monitored by intelligence agencies.
And in an exclusive interview earlier this month, hackers from Anonymous told Sky News that they needed more help to continue taking down jihadists on the internet.
Members of the collective, which declared cyber war on Islamic State following the Paris attacks, claim they have taken 25,000 of the extremist group’s social media accounts offline.