Published By: ReCode, 8/18/2016
Summary: Twitter announced that it has increased the rate at which it is suspending accounts the service identifies as promoting terrorism, and is working on ways to block the same users from opening new accounts. In addition to highlighting how important social media has become in political and social movements (including violent ones), this raises questions about censorship and about companies’ right to control what their platforms are used for.
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Extended Discussion Questions:
- Why would ISIS (or other terrorist groups) want to use Twitter to get their message out?
- The policy that Twitter cites reads “Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.” When Twitter suspends accounts over this, does it violate the free speech rights of the users? Is it okay for Twitter to decide what its users can and can’t tweet? (Comparing with examples closer to home, such as organized white supremacism or just everyday racism, could be interesting here.)
- If you had the job of deciding which accounts should be suspended, how would you decide what counted as “promoting violence” or “promoting terrorism”? Do you think you could train an algorithm to make those judgments?
- Do you have any guesses about how Twitter might be identifying users who have previously promoted terrorism in their tweets and preventing them from making accounts?
- If Twitter didn’t have this policy, or didn’t suspend accounts over it, would you view the company as being responsible for violent acts that were incited on Twitter?
Alternative Article: “Twitter Deletes 125,000 ISIS Accounts and Expands Anti-Terror Teams” (The Guardian, 2/5/2016), written earlier in the process, gives a few more details about efforts to automate identification of threats and touches on the debates over free speech and politicization of social-media platforms’ policies.
CSP Global Impact Learning Objectives/EKs:
LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.
LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.
EK 7.1.1H Social media, such as blogs and Twitter, have enhanced dissemination.
EK 7.1.1M The Internet and the Web have enhanced methods of and opportunities for communication and collaboration.
EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
EK 7.3.1D Both authenticated and anonymous access to digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
EK 7.3.1E Commercial and governmental censorship of digital information raise legal and ethical concerns.
Other CSP Big Ideas:
6 The Internet
Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Crop 8”, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0