The terror group Islamic State is in a social media retreat after Twitter began wholesale deleting accounts of the fighters. The mass suspension of accounts came in the wake of the beheading of captured American reporter, James Foley. The suspensions should have came as soon as the group began posting imagery of their savagery across Syria and Iraq.
IS is reeling from US airstrikes near Mt. Sinjar and around the Mosul Dam. Now, their chief recruiting tool has been ripped from them. It has forced the group to an alternative service, called Diaspora. Unfortunately for Diaspora, the company has no central server. This makes it harder for admins to delete unwanted content from groups such as the Islamic State.
Diaspora is set up into pods, where individual pod administrators take care of the accounts within the pod. Diaspora employees are urging all ‘podmins’ to immediately remove and ban Islamic State accounts. The company is adamant that it does not want that type of content or the PR that comes with it.
Unfortunately, this is where open-source has it drawbacks. There is no definitive way to get rid of objectionable content. In a company post, Diaspora said the open-sourced nature of the network is probably what is drawing IS sympathizers and fighters in. “We will continue our efforts to talk with the podmins, but we want to emphasize once again that the project’s core team is not able to decide what podmins should do.”
The video of James Foley was widely disseminated using YouTube and Twitter. The companies both took action, with Twitter suspending accounts, and YouTube ripping the video down. YouTube has put in place an algorithm to prevent it from being uploaded again.
Both Facebook and Twitter have policies against known terrorist organizations having accounts. It’s a good policy, but one that is hard to enforce. Millions upon millions of accounts are hard to police. They have to rely on people reporting the objectionable content to aid in suspended them.
One issue that is arising is the question of newsworthiness. Some worry that the censorship hampers efforts of journalists from following the movements of these groups. There are plenty of jihadist forums where you can find their hatred. Twitter and Facebook are in the right here, preventing their companies from being recruitment tools.
Now, it is on Diaspora to get their podmins to do the right thing and suspend IS accounts and remove any content related to the mass killing perpetrated by the group.