Tag Archives: Twitter

Saudi Arabia Man Gets 10 Years, 2000 Lashes Over Tweets.@Twitter.@Jack.@Support

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism in hundreds of Twitter posts.

Al-Watan online daily said Saturday that religious police in charge of monitoring social networks found more than 600 tweets denying the existence of God, ridiculing Quranic verses, accusing all prophets of lies and saying their teachings fueled hostilities.

It says the 28-year-old man admitted to being an atheist and refused to repent, saying that what he wrote reflected his own beliefs and that he had the right to express them. The report did not name the man.

The court also fined him 20,000 riyals, about $5,300.

© 2016 The Associated Press.

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Twitter suspends 125,000 accounts over ISIS, terrorism links

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Bulk of accounts suspended by US social media site linked to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

The effort signaled efforts by Twitter to automatically identify tweets supporting terrorism, reflecting increased pressure placed by the U.S. government for social media companies to respond to abuse more proactively. Child pornography has previously been the only abuse that was automatically flagged for human review on social media, using a different kind of technology that sources a database of known images.

Twitter also said Friday it has suspended more than 125,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, mainly related to Islamic State militants, in the last eight months. Social media has increasingly become a tool for recruitment and radicalization that’s used by the Islamic State group and its supporters, who by some reports have sent tens of thousands of tweets per day.

Tech companies are dedicating increasingly more resources to tracking reports of violent threats. Twitter said Friday that it has increased the size of its team reviewing reports to reduce their response time “significantly.” The San Francisco-based company also changed its policy in April, adding language to make clear that “threatening or promoting terrorism” specifically counted as abusive behaviour and violated its terms of use.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is now active in eastern LibyaIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant is now active in eastern Libya  Photo: PA

In January, the White House made good on President Barack Obama’s promise to reach out to Silicon Valley to tackle the use of social media by violent extremist groups. Those particularly include the Islamic State group, which inspired attackers who killed 14 in San Bernardino, California, last December.

A post on one of the killers’ Facebook pages that appeared around the time of the attack included a pledge of allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group.

Facebook found the post – which was under an alias – the day after the attack. The company removed the profile from public view and informed law enforcement. But such a proactive effort is fairly uncommon.

The Obama administration sent several top officials to San Jose, California, including FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.

Among issues discussed was how to use technology to help speed the identification of “terrorist content,” according to a copy of the White House briefing memo obtained by The Associated Press.

“We recognise that identifying terrorist content that violates terms of service is far more difficult than identifying images of child pornography, but is there a way to use technology to quickly identify terrorist content? For example, are there technologies used for the prevention of spam that could be useful?” the memo stated.

Since late 2015, Twitter began using “proprietary spam-fighting tools” to find accounts that might be violating their terms of service by promoting terrorism, sending them to be reviewed by a team at Twitter. That group also now looks into other accounts similar to those reported to them by other users.

Twitter said it has already had seen results, “including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter.”

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But it also noted that there is no “magic algorithm” for identifying terrorist content, which is why even humans reviewing the material are ultimately making judgment calls “based on very limited information and guidance.” Free speech and local law in an area can also complicate matters.

“Like most people around the world, we are horrified by the atrocities perpetrated by extremist groups. We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism,” Twitter said in a statement released Friday. It said it would continue to “engage with authorities and other relevant organisations to find solutions to this critical issue and promote powerful counter-speech narratives.”

ISIS in U.S. Prefer Twitter Among Social Media

Islamic State is renowned for its ability to mobilize followers via social media like Twitter, but the group is also attracting clusters of American followers who meet in person and push one another toward violence, experts and law-enforcement officials say.

A study published Tuesday by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism examined cases involving Americans charged with terrorism for their suspected support of Islamic State and found their conversion to the group’s world view often involved a significant amount of direct contact with “pre-existing social contacts who already embraced jihadist ideology.”

Concerns over threats from small groups of terrorist sympathizers have taken on a new urgency following last month’s attacks in Paris, which were carried out by people whose friendships and family connections appear to have formed the backbone of one or more terrorist cells.

Since the attacks, which killed over 100 people, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has upped its surveillance of known Islamic State supporters. U.S. counterterrorism officials say they haven’t uncovered any terror network or trained operatives in the U.S. like those who operated in Paris. Nor have they seen an uptick in the threat from people who might be inspired by the Paris bloodshed to launch copycat attacks, though they caution it is too early to measure that accurately.

About 70 people have been arrested in the U.S. on charges tied to Islamic State since early 2014, with investigations continuing in all 50 states, according to law-enforcement officials. Fifty-six people were arrested in 2015 alone, the largest number of terror arrests in a year since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the report said.

Tracking such suspects is a labor-intensive effort that has stretched thin the agencies charged with preventing attacks. The case load was so heavy in the spring and summer that the FBI had to pull agents off of criminal work to assist in terror cases. Director James Comey has called that unsustainable over the long term.

But since July, the pace of new prosecutions has slowed, and the number of Americans trying to travel to Syria has dropped from about two a week to about two a month, according to officials.

Nineteen people have pleaded guilty, including seven who have already been sentenced to prison time, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s School of Law, which also tracks ISIS cases. The rest are working their way through the courts.

The researchers at George Washington University said they have identified approximately 300 American supporters of the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, on Twitter, the social-media platform of choice for many of the group’s supporters. The report also identifies two unnamed clusters of Islamic State-supporting friends, and the investigations are ongoing.

“ISIS is really good at motivating that single person to go out and do something, but…not many people act out in a way that’s truly alone. What we see more often are small cells,” said J.M. Berger, a counterterrorism expert and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

One cluster of friends in Texas “revolves around a few charismatic individuals and an Islamic studies group,’’ the report said. “Another, based in the suburbs of a large Midwestern city, appears to be composed of former high-school friends and a handful of their acquaintances.’’ The researchers didn’t further identify the groups as they said they didn’t want to interfere with potential criminal investigations.

Some clusters of alleged Islamic State supporters in the U.S. have been exposed by investigations. Federal prosecutors this summer brought a series of cases against five friends living in New York and New Jersey who allegedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State and were plotting to travel overseas to fight for the group.

Communications on social media began as early as 2012 between defendants Nader Saadeh, of Rutherford, N.J., and Munther Omar Saleh, of Queens, N.Y. As their discussions developed into the following year, they talked about their desire to build a “small army” of friends to fight against America, according to the indictments.

The group incorporated more people and began meeting together to watch Islamic State beheading videos and discuss plans to go overseas, prosecutors said. Some defendants were meeting on almost a daily basis between May and June, during which Mr. Saadeh flew from John F. Kennedy Airport to Amman, Jordan, with the intention of joining Islamic State, the indictments alleged.

Two defendants in this case have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, and Nader Saadeh is in plea negotiations, court papers say. Cases against the remaining two defendants, including Mr. Saleh, who have pleaded not guilty, are pending. Deborah Colson, the lawyer for Mr. Saleh, said: “We ask that the public withhold judgment until all of the facts are revealed.” Lawyers for the other defendants didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Defendants linked to Islamic State have posed unprecedented law-enforcement challenges. They are, on average, 26 years old, but have been as young as 15, younger than terrorism suspects charged in the U.S. in the past, the report says. Most of them are male, but the report says women, who make up almost 15% of the arrests, “are taking an increasingly prominent role.” Converts to Islam are overrepresented, comprising 40% of those arrested. The majority of suspects charged are U.S. citizens or legal residents, “underscoring the homegrown nature of the threat,” the report said, which said some clusters are organized around ethnicity.

Social media, particularly Twitter, play a big role. Online “spotters’’ engage with people posting general questions about religion, says the report, which described an exchange that started as a calm discussion of faith before “hardened ISIS supporters slowly introduced increasingly ardent views into the conversation.’’

A spokesman for Twitter Inc. said in a statement, “Violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on Twitter, and our rules make that clear,” and pointed to Twitter’s terms of service, which say the firm will “take action” on accounts that threaten or promote violence.