Twitter knowingly allowed the Islamic State (ISIS) to spread propaganda, attract recruits, and raise money, according to the widow of a murdered contractor who is now suing the social media company.
Tamara Fields is the widow of Lloyd Fields, a government contractor who was killed in an ISIS terrorist attack on a police training center in Amman, Jordan, last November. In a legal complaint filed this week, Fields’ lawyers said Twitter had until recently given ISIS “unfettered” access to the social network.
Breitbart Tech has highlighted this point before. We recently reported on how Twitter, supposedly a bastion of free speech, displays a curious favouritism in the accounts that it chooses to censor. Opponents of progressive activists and feminists are met with swift punishment, but until recent vigilante action by Anonymous, very little was done to stop ISIS and ISIS-supporting accounts on Twitter.
— Arthur Schwartz (@arthurschwartz) January 17, 2016
Twitter, once seen as a beacon of anti-censorship, even complies with requests from big banks to censor jokes from journalists. They recently approved a request from Bank of America to remove a tweet from a Business Insider correspondent who had cracked a joke about the company. Again, the contrast to the action Twitter has taken against ISIS (or lack thereof) is striking.
Fields’ lawyers are suing Twitter for violating the federal Anti-Terrorism Act, on the grounds that the company has provided “material support to terrorists.” If the lawsuits is successful, Twitter would have to pay triple damages to Fields. It would also set a precedent for companies that wish to continue taking a neutral approach to content, even terrorist content.
In a statement, Twitter said “While we believe the lawsuit is without merit, we are deeply saddened to hear of this family’s terrible loss. Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter and, like other social networks, our rules make that clear.”
Prior to recent actions by the online vigilante group Anonymous, which led to the suspension of thousands of Twitter accounts associated with the Islamic State, the terrorist entity maintained a huge presence on Twitter. The Brookings Institution estimates that ISIS operated over 45,000 Twitter accounts between September and December 2014.
The U.S Government is taking steps to counter ISIS on social media, with security officials recently meeting with senior Silicon Valley executives to discuss methods of combating terrorists on the internet.
However, Twitter has not been cooperative with the U.S government with regards to takedown requests. According to its recent transparency report, it did not approve any of the 25 requests it received from the government and law enforcement to remove posts between January and July 2015.
Curiously, there is a country that Twitter does respond to: Turkey, a country notorious for web censorship that has filed more requests than any other state government. Twitter has banned accounts critical of the Turkish government, and recently rolled out its “country withheld content” feature in the country, a local censorship tool that allows it to block tweets across Turkey.
Turkey is in theory an ally in the fight against ISIS. However, the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia and one of the most important groups fighting the Islamic State, accuse the Turks of supporting ISIS in their fight against the Kurds, who are a long-time enemy of Turkey. Turkey has not kept their actions against the YPG a secret, confirming that they have attacked Kurdish positions in northern Syria.
An odd country for Twitter to acquiesce to.