Twitter said it has shut down 235,000 accounts in the last six months for violating its policies prohibiting the promotion of terrorism, as it looks to show that it’s proactively responding to critics who charge that the social media service is a haven for extremist groups around the world advocating violence.
In February, Twitter said it had shut down more than 125,000 accounts since mid-2015 for violating its policy on terrorism, bringing the total number of suspensions for terrorism to 360,000 in the last year.
Daily suspensions of Twitter accounts are up over 80% since last year, with “spikes in suspensions immediately following terrorist attacks,” according to the company.
“Our response time for suspending reported accounts, the amount of time these accounts are on Twitter, and the number of followers they accumulate have all decreased dramatically,” Twitter said in a blog post. “We have also made progress in disrupting the ability of those suspended to immediately return to the platform.”
In January, Twitter was sued by a Florida woman whose husband and another man were killed in an attack by militants in Jordan, alleging that the company allowed ISIS an “unfettered” ability to use the social service; Twitter said the lawsuit was without merit and the case was dismissed earlier this month. In June, the family of an American woman who died the Paris terrorist attacks last November sued Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, alleging the companies “knowingly permitted the terrorist group ISIS to use their social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda.”
Meanwhile, ISIS-linked groups have issued threats aimed personally at CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in response to the companies’ efforts to purge user accounts spreading terror propaganda.
In its announcement Thursday, Twitter said it is using proprietary anti-spam tools to supplement user reports to identify repeat abusers of terrorism accounts, and the company said such automated tools have helped catch more than one-third of the accounts suspended for promoting terrorism. The company said it will provide regular updates on its fight against terrorism as part of its Transparency Report starting in 2017.
In addition, Twitter said its public policy team is working with an expanded set of partners to fight terrorism on the platform, including France’s Parle-moi d’Islam, the U.K.’s Imams Online, Indonesia’s Wahid Foundation, United Arab Emirates’ Sawab Center and True Islam in the U.S.
Separately, Dorsey has said the company is boosting efforts to curtail abusive attacks against individual users on the service.
“No one deserves to be the target of abuse on Twitter. We haven’t been good enough at ensuring that’s the case, and we need to do better,” he said on Twitter’s financial earnings call last month. Dorsey’s comments came after actress Leslie Jones was the target of numerous racist comments on Twitter, which prompted Twitter to ban conservative columnist Milo Yiannopoulos and other accounts over the attacks.
On Thursday, Twitter introduced a new option that lets users avoid seeing comments from strangers — letting you limit notifications to only to the people you follow, thereby hiding other comments directed at you from the twitterverse at large. Twitter already lets users block unwanted followers and provides a “mute” feature allows you to remove an account’s tweets from your timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account. In addition, Twitter users can set their accounts to be “protected,” which means only approved users can view their tweets.
Twitter also widely rolled out an optional “quality filter” setting, which is designed to improve the relevance of tweets users see. That screens out “lower-quality content,” such as duplicate tweets or content that appears to be from automated sources, but doesn’t filter content from accounts you follow or accounts you’ve recently interacted with.