Islamic State supporters on Twitter are using the platform to attack Twitter itself, threatening the life of co-founder Jack Dorsey and the safety of those in the site’s headquarters in the United States.
Back in October, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo revealed he and his employees have been targeted with death threats from the Islamic State and its groupies: “After we started suspending their accounts, some folks affiliated with the organization used Twitter to declare that employees of Twitter and their management should be assassinated. Obviously that’s a jarring thing for anyone to deal with.”
Twitter has policies against using its service for certain activities, including the advocacy of rape, torture, genocide, and killing. This leads administrators to suspend the accounts of many ISIS supporters. They tend to respond by calling for the execution of Twitter executives and employees.
In a string of Tweets tied together with the hashtag #The_Concept_Of_Lone_Wolf_Attacks, an ISIS supporter declared, “The time has arrived to respond to Twitter’s management by directly attacking their employees and physically assassinating them!! Those who will carry this out are the sleepers cells of death. Twitter management should know that if they do not stop their campaign in the virtual world, we will the bring the war to them in the real world on the ground. Every Twitter employee in San Francisco in the United States should bear in mind and watch over himself because on his doorstep there might be a lone wolf assassin waiting.”
— Grasswire (@grasswire) September 8, 2014
Jihad message boards are increasingly full of threats against Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, stating that Dorsey should plan on taking his last breath soon, and he “will never come back to life.”
“Your virtual war on us will cause a real war on you,” the anonymous poster threatened Dorsey. “You started this failed war. We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back. But when our lions come and take your breath, you will never come back to life.”
The post was illustrated with a picture of Dorsey in the crosshairs of a gun, in case the message was not made sufficiently clear by the jihadi’s words. It also called on “individual jihadis all over the world” to “target the Twitter company and its interests in any place, people, and buildings, and don’t allow any one of the atheists to survive.”
A Twitter spokesman said the company’s security team was investigating the threats with the aid of “relevant law enforcement officials.” Thus far there has not been any violent follow-up on these threats, but of course it is prudent for Twitter and counter-terrorism officials to take them seriously.
The UK Guardian reported in September that a special unit of the British police has been working with social media providers, including Twitter and YouTube, to take down gruesome jihadi content at the rate of some 1,100 items per week. And even at that heady rate of counter-attack, they are not able to keep the services clear of terrorist propaganda, because there is so much of it, coming through a constant stream of new accounts, dodgy uploading services, and anonymous web sites — a media machine described by UK officials as “a slick and fast-moving dissemination of propaganda” that can spread its evil content across the world before even the most attentive online administrators can detect and block it.
However, as of that September Guardian report, it was thought that progress against the online jihad had been made — progress enough to put ISIS and its fanboys in a very sour mood. We can hope the new round of threats against Twitter employees is a sign of their continuing frustration, and further hope it proves to be an expression of impotent rage.