Skip to main content

Twitter, in effort to root out terrorism support, suspends 235,000 more accounts


Nearly a quarter-million Twitter accounts have been suspended over the past six months for promoting terrorism.

The social media service Thursday gave an update on its bid to stay on top of the constant stream of new users and posts that offer support or connections to groups such as the Islamic State.

Back in February, Twitter detailed some of the changes it had made to monitoring and going after violent, extremist accounts, saying it had suspended more than 125,000 accounts in the seven or so months prior for threatening or promoting terrorist acts (most of them Islamic State-related).

In this Thursday update, that number has nearly tripled – since then, Twitter has suspended an additional 235,000 accounts, bringing the total number to 360,000.

"Daily suspensions are up over 80 percent since last year, with spikes in suspensions immediately following terrorist attacks," Twitter said. "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."

The service said it's also gotten better at stopping suspended individuals from immediately signing up again under a different name. They've also expanded teams that look at reported content around the clock, and upgraded the tools those people can work with.

Jeffrey Van Nest, media coordinator for the Minneapolis FBI field office, called it "increasingly a challenge" to gather evidence in these types of cases, because of encryption and the speed at which messages can spread online.

Referring to previous comment by FBI Director James Comey, Van Nest said the social media apps are used "to connect with troubled souls who ascribe to a violent ideology."

He continued: "It’s something that we are obviously very aware of."

The Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on Twitter's update.

Social media and terror recruitment

Social media has been a key tool for jihadist groups to recruit new supporters and fighters – FBI Director James Comey has called it "a devil on [the] shoulder" of potential sympathizers.

The influence of Twitter and Facebook are present in cases of the nine Minnesota men who pleaded guilty to or were convicted of attempting to support the Islamic State. In the indictment against them, prosecutors says some of the suspects had publicly posted content that suggested they supported jihadist groups.

One was a photo of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American-born man who became a key influencer in al Qaeda; another included a black flag often used by jihadists; then there was a photo of a man holding a T-shirt saying "Syria" and "The Caliphate is Coming."

Then there was the Twin Cities-raised Douglas McCain, who was killed while fighting in Syria in August of 2014. His social media postings were referred to often, including his Twitter bio which read, “Its Islam over everything.”

The Islamic State's presence online

Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other social media apps, tracking terror activity is a gargantuan effort.

A report from the Brookings Institute in March of 2015 estimated at least 46,000 accounts that supported the Islamic State existed. Twitter then faced mounting pressure from lawmakers and the public to take action, a Yahoo story explained.

The Associated Press, in a story from July, talks about a 45 percent drop in Islamic State Twitter traffic over the past two years, thanks in large part to developing technology that can more easily and quickly identify the extremist content. One example from the AP:

"When pro-IS Twitter accounts are discovered today, they have about 300 followers each. In 2014, such accounts had 1,500 followers each, according to the data."

Next Up

Chris Finch

Hawks bury Timberwolves in 3-point barrage

Without D'Angelo Russell, the Wolves couldn't keep up with the Hawks.

P.J. Fleck, Gophers football

Kirk Ciarocca returning to Gophers as offensive coordinator

The architect of the 2019 offense will look to revive the Gophers.

Klobuchar - MTP - NBC screengrab

Klobuchar says Congress should pass law to protect abortion rights

Her comments came as the Supreme Court appears poised to weaken — or gut — Roe v. Wade

MPD missing Heard - crop 1_

Police ask for public's help finding Mpls. woman missing a week

The 36-year-old hasn't been seen or heard from recently.

unsplash cold winter breath dark

Hello, winter: List of the coldest wind chills in MN Monday morning

The state went from a relatively mild start of the season, to downright frigid wind chills.


1 CWD-positive deer in Brainerd Lakes area, so surveillance will continue

The CWD monitoring measures were supposed to end after this year.

unsplash - visitor patient doctor hospital emergency - crop

MN program will train, hire 1,000 nursing assistants for long-term care

The facilities are facing a severe staffing shortage.

Minnesota State Fair - main gate day 2021

Minnesota State Fair reestablishes a police department

The fair had been contracting with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.

teacher, covid, masks, school

Minnetonka to consider removing middle school mask requirement

The school board has been impressed by vaccination rates among middle school students.

snow, plow

Friday winter storm could hit Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard is already monitoring the forecast.

Sauk Rapids Middle School street view, Minnesota - November 2018_

Teen student arrested for threats toward MN middle school

The Sauk Rapids middle school and high school were closed Monday.


Rally for trans child outed during Hastings school board race draws big crowd

Hastings has been in the spotlight since the child's family was featured in a CNN story.



Twitter suspends MyPillow's account

The company's CEO Mike Lindell was permanently suspended last month.