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Combating Extremism On Social Media

Shutting Down Jihadi Twitter Account Is A Tough Task

Ideology is easily spread on social media, and the consequence is that conflicts that are usually fought on the ground, are being taken online, but why? Surely there must be a function that government officials have that can eradicate Jihadi Twitter accounts?

social media extremism
Mujahid Miski, the owner of the Twitter handle @mujahid_miski9 has been a nuisance online, and for this he has been banned eight times. He is now back once again to spread messages of hate and violence, whilst declaring support for extremist groups such as ISIS. His knack of slipping back into the digital universe has be an area of frustration for the newly launched non-profit organisation, Counter Extremism Project (CEP). The organisation announced that its firs major goal would be to take on accounts such as @mujahid_miski9, and try and banish them from the internet. Similar organisations have attempted to eliminate Jihadi accounts such as Think Again, but they tried to engage with people, with the potential to recruit.

CEP have had little success thus far, and is headed by Fran Townsend, who previously worked as a counterterrorism advisor under George W. Bush. She recently stated in an interview that the newly formed project was formed after she saw how ineffective the government was in engaging with extremists on the internet:

“We recognised when we left the government that it would be a challenge not just for one administration […] to really be able to challenge bad people, extremists, who were advocating violence in this new battlespace.”

The CEP was created off the back of the beheading of journalist James Foley, and Townsend said that “it was clear that the bad guys and their accounts, they were prepared for that event,” because they began to post a plethora of social media messages about the horrific event, whilst targeting other journalists and former government officials.

Thus far, the counter-terrorism group has been cautious when targeting accounts, and only eight have been identified in the first wave of activity. Each of them has either identified themselves as a member of ISIS or some other extremist group, and CEP then implores their 619 followers to help them report the extremists as spam.

social media extremism

The CEP has chosen to take the organic route when generating followers, and this is why the number is currently low, but it will probably have more chance of genuine interaction. Their followers have already begun providing their own submission of accounts that the CEP should target.

The downside to this whole operation is that Twitter apparently hasn't cooperated in the manner that Townsend and co had hoped. They accuse Twitter of not doing enough to make sure that these accounts stay down, and not devoting the resources towards monitoring and removing them for good.

It is tough to completely eradicate all so-called extremist accounts online, especially on Twitter where the selling point is free speech. Are Twitter in a position to take sides at this point? It is difficult to see how a company who promotes autonomy on the internet can take a side in an ideological conflict. This is why conflict such as this is likely to thrive in an online space, as there is little room to remove one side and not the other. This leads to both ends of the spectrum speaking out on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the war of words will never end due to the passion of both ideologies.

Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Combating Extremism On Social Media Reviewed by Alex Smith on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 Rating: 5
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