Twitter has finally found a quick way to shut down the accounts of trolls who applaud public tragedies. Such accounts rejoiced the terror attack in Nice with hashtags #BlessedNiceAttack and #BattleOfNice in Arabic within the first hour of the tragedy. However, many of those accounts and messages were removed just as promptly as they went up.
Reacting efficiently to shut down trolls
At least 50 Twitter accounts rejoiced over the Nice terror attack, which killed over 84 people, but the micro-blogging giant was able to remove those accounts quite fast this time. In the past, people censured the micro-blogging giant for being slow to remove such tweets.
“We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter Rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service,” a Twitter spokesperson told Quartz.
According to a report by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), the micro-blogging giant “moved with swiftness we have not seen before to erase pro-attack tweets within minutes.” The report further says that it was the first time the social network has reacted so efficiently, including in the wake of the Orlando attack last month.
Twitter has improved its staffing to do content identification and removal. In a blog post, the social media platform explained that it has increased the size of the teams that review reports, and this has reduced their response time significantly.
“We have already seen results, including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter,” the blog post reads.
Twitter follows a cumbersome protocol
Twitter has been struggling to find the middle ground between blocking out harassment, abusive behavior, and violence and free speech. Its efforts have either fallen short or backfired in the past. For instance, the micro-blogging site was unsuccessful in blocking the rape threats against two female politicians in the U.K. Also a British journalist accused the platform of categorizing criticism as hate speech.
Twitter has often been dubbed a recruitment portal of sorts for extremists, including the Islamic State and its followers. A March 2015 report from the Brookings Institution said at least 46,000 Twitter accounts are used by ISIL supporters. The micro-blogging giant said earlier this year that it has deleted 125,000 Islamic State accounts and expanded its anti-terror teams to monitor extremist content.
According to CEP, the problem is that Twitter’s reporting protocol is a cumbersome, multi-step process that does not have a streamlined reporting protocol specific to the terrorist activity. The platform takes up to 24 hours to take down any reported content. This is enough time for the information to be disseminated and ingested.