Twitter is on the hot seat when it comes to protecting its users from terrorists and white supremacists. While Twitter’s policy prohibits hate speech and incitement to violence and suggests users block hate groups, ISIS and ISIS-affiliated accounts tend to continue to spread propaganda using the service. The company’s Twitter Rules say users can report terrorist or hate content only when it is flagged by others. Now, the company is headed to Washington, D.C. to testify on Nov. 1 before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Twitter came under scrutiny last spring after it was revealed that the violent Nazi band Pegida had shut down using Twitter, without the trolls ever seeing a message. Twitter has a new anti-hateful conduct policy that states users can report such content, but that content will only be suspended when the rest of their account is shut down, or the reports are ignored.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri, who oversees all of the social media site’s operations, has also agreed to testify in November before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Congress has been pushing Mosseri to testify before their committee after the app’s prominent role in organized violent group movements, including a recent terrorist attack in Barcelona.
Instagram has stricter policies on violent propaganda than Twitter. After last year’s attacks in London, it took down all terrorist propaganda images and videos from its service within the first 72 hours of publishing.
After other terrorist attacks this summer, such as the London Bridge attack, which resulted in at least 7 dead and 48 injured, Instagram also removed an entire terrorist group’s accounts within a couple of hours.
Some of the groups with active accounts that have been targeted have been banned but have since been reopened. While the terrorist group admins cannot upload images or videos of violence on the service, the account’s handles can still be seen in public, so users can share content that promotes violence on the app. Still, by blocking access to the accounts, Instagram has shown that they too have taken social media moderation seriously.
Instagram is owned by Facebook, whose services may be used in much more explicit ways than Twitter. While hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #OrangeIsTheNewBlack are used frequently on Instagram to spread propaganda, so are more sophisticated tools to incite violence. In this instance, it’s possible that the users in Spain opened these types of accounts instead of their usual spam accounts, in order to leverage the power of digital persuasion against the authorities.
It’s also not completely clear how Instagram’s recent actions actually helped thwart the terrorist attack, as many of the terrorist groups were using Instagram before Sept. 17. Nevertheless, Mosseri says he is prepared to testify before Congress in November.
“Instagram users should be confident that we will continue to put the health of the Instagram community first, and we welcome the opportunity to provide additional details and evidence on the work we are doing to serve and protect our community,” he wrote in a post on Instagram’s blog.
Mosseri also mentioned that Facebook’s policy on terrorist content is “similar to that of Instagram” in its efforts to remove such content.
You can follow Adam Mosseri on Instagram.
Sources: The Hill, Independent, The Verge, Wired