Why is Twitter censoring terrorist groups?

For Al Jazeera English, I wrote about Twitter’s ad hoc deletion of accounts belonging to terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and the Islamic Jihad Union. I touched on this briefly at Registan after the Islamic Jihad Union’s two accounts were shut down seemingly after I tweeted about them. The suspensions — and Twitter’s refusal to address them — raise broader questions on censorship and security:

The presence of terrorists on Twitter raises questions about freedom of speech, national security, international law, and corporate power. Who decides if a person is a terrorist? If an account is suspended, should that suspension be based on content or affiliation? What is the policy towards official accounts of authoritarian states – like North Korea – that spread propaganda and murder civilians? What about those of countries like the United States engaged in wars many find inhumane and unjust? When Twitter blocks tweets on a country by country basis, how should they respond to terrorists who profess allegiance to no nation? How should governments reconcile Twitter’s role as a purveyor of terrorist threats with its utility for gathering intelligence?

These issues are important – particularly since, as terrorism experts Aaron Y Zelins and Will McCants have noted, in-depth research on how terrorist groups operate on social media has barely been conducted. But we will not be able to address them unless Twitter is open about its policies. Censorship that goes undocumented goes unchallenged. At the moment, Twitter representatives refuse to talk, although they continue to release updates applauding their transparency.

Read the full article here.

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