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Twitter Suspends 235,000 More Terror-linked Accounts

FILE - A 3-D printed Twitter logo and an Islamic State flag are seen in this picture illustration produced Feb. 18, 2016.
FILE - A 3-D printed Twitter logo and an Islamic State flag are seen in this picture illustration produced Feb. 18, 2016.

Twitter announced that it has suspended an additional 235,000 accounts for promoting terrorism over the past six months.

"This brings our overall number of suspensions to 360,000 since the middle of 2015," the company said in a statement Thursday.

Twitter says that daily suspensions of user accounts have increased by 80 percent since 2015. It adds that many of the suspensions immediately follow terrorist attacks.

The U.S.-based company says it also has made progress in preventing users who were suspended from immediately returning to the platform using different accounts and that it "collaborates with other social platforms in identifying terrorist content."

Despite the progress, many suspended users have found their way back onto Twitter.

"The numbers include a fairly large number of users who are repeatedly suspended after creating new accounts, so the number of accounts suspended does not equal the number of users suspended,” said J.M. Berger, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. “It's not a trivial number."

Berger was the lead author of a 2015 study titled, “The ISIS (Islamic State) Twitter Census,” which found supporters of the Islamic State (IS) terror group used at least 46,000 Twitter accounts between September and December 2014, with an average of about 1,000 followers each.

Twitter has been criticized in the past for not doing enough to stem the flow of extremist content. Still, Berger credits Twitter with making progress.

"The current ISIS network on Twitter is less than 10 percent of what it was in 2014 when we did the census," he said.

In response to crackdowns by Twitter and other social media networks, IS followers have taken to other, encrypted messaging apps, such as Telegram and WhatsApp, to communicate with followers with limited success.

"Telegram allows existing supporters to talk amongst themselves, but Twitter and Facebook are the main places they can find new supporters online," Berger said. "ISIS recruiters and propagandists know this and so they heavily emphasize that Telegram supporters should be creating new accounts on Twitter."