It's not yet a safe haven, but it seems that terrorist outfits are having little problem setting up Twitter accounts. It also seems that these accounts tend to stay up until someone complains, meaning that the company either has no effective mechanisms for detecting pro-terror sentiments and the gruesome pictures which sometimes accompany them, or isn't using them. The ease with which all of this can be done has not become much of a national story, even though becoming one would seem to be a natural outgrowth of last week's Kenya mall attack, given that one such Twitter account gleefully posted attack photos.
Here are some of the specfiics from Bridget Johnson at PJ Media (bolds are mine):
Twitter Not Only Allows Terrorist Accounts, But Suggests Terrorists to Follow
As terrorists increasingly have embraced social media, Twitter has increasingly come under criticism for hosting terror feeds. Al-Shabaab is on it sixth account after getting suspended in the past for tweeting photos of a dead French special ops soldier, and most recently the Somali terror outlet blazed through a few accounts after suspensions for gloating about the Westgate mall massacre. Their latest account, @HSM_PR, has remained active for many days now and has racked up 59 tweets. During the attack and its aftermath, journalists were checking the Shabaab feed for its latest claims and links to statements.
So when al-Qaeda announced it had launched its first official Twitter account, I, like other journalists who cover terrorism, hit the follow button. The @shomokhalislam account was suspended Sunday by Twitter after being allowed to remain open since Tuesday, posting nearly 50 tweets that included an attack on “the servants of worshipers of the cross” in a bombing that targeted staff of Pakistan’s interior minister in Peshawar.
On Saturday, I received one of those occasional emails from Twitter offering suggestions based on a recent follow — suggesting that I follow other terrorists.
The first suggested account, “Islam Workshop,” is connected to an al-Qaeda web forum to “rouse the believers.”
... The second appears to be linked to the Al-Battar training camp, al-Qaeda’s program that has offered DIY as well as hands-on terrorist advice.
The fourth claims to be “one of the foot soldiers” of Al-Shabaab, and posted several press photo from the Westgate attack while gloating about Shabaab’s gruesome accomplishments.
... Twitter has said it can’t comment on users when asked to explain why terrorist accounts remain up. The only reason Al-Shabaab’s account fell a couple of times after the horrific Westgate attack was because of intense pressure from angry Twitter users in Africa and around the globe.
Twitter's official policies relating to account suspension do not depend solely on user complaints. Even given terrorists' occasional level of tech sophistication, it is especially troubling, given Twitter's policy that "Accounts created to replace suspended accounts will be permanently suspended," that terrorists have been able to create new post-suspension accounts.
Obviously, the prohibitions against "Violence and Threats" and "Unlawful Use" should also be quite relevant.
It's disappointing that Twitter appears not to be automatcially deploying its search engines to detect key words which raise suspicions of terrorist affiliation — or if it is, it's not paying much attention to generated results.
One would think that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security might be interested in the ease with which terrorists can set up accounts and have them go undetected in Twitterland — that is, if they, the NSA, and others can tear themselves away from spying on Americans' love interests long enough to do real national security work.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.