U.S. counterterrorism officials say Twitter’s crackdown on tweets from the Islamic State is complicating efforts to identify the terrorist group’s key members and activities by intelligence agencies that increasingly use social media to spy on the militants.
For the past several weeks Twitter has removed accounts that violate its terms of service, which include promoting violence — perhaps the central feature of the al Qaeda offshoot that revels in posting images and videos of executions and beheadings.
Key Islamic State Twitter users have been blocked as part of a cat-and-mouse effort to prevent the terrorist group from using social media to spread propaganda, recruit members and display horrific images of its murders and terrorist operations.
But as soon as some accounts are blocked, others spring up to circumvent the crackdown.
The Islamic State has been forced by Twitter to shift its focus to less widely used social media, including Diaspora, an open media network with about 1 million users. Twitter, by contrast, has an estimated 500 million users.
Several central and regional Islamic State Twitter accounts were moved recently to Diaspora.
For Islamic State members continuing to use Twitter, several active supporters used slightly different Twitter handles. Others use backup Twitter accounts that can be activated and verified if main accounts are blocked.
The Islamic State has used Twitter campaigns to rally supporters and gain new ones.
One of the most vocal is the Media Front for support of the Islamic State, which has helped gather various militant support groups.
Since the organization’s military incursion into Iraq, Twitter has shut down scores of accounts. Its most recent crackdown coincided with increased international pressure on the group appears to be having a greater impact, a U.S. official said.
Saudi Arabia is taking steps to counter the Islamic State’s growing influence in the oil-rich kingdom following a poll that showed 92 percent of Saudi respondents ages 24 to 30 in the online survey said the Islamic State conforms to Islamic values and law.
Recent Islamic State Twitter postings have included photos showing Saudi nationals waving the group’s black flag and another that claimed militants have infiltrated the Saudi military.
CHINA’S NUCLEAR ‘LEAP’
An internal People’s Liberation Army document has revealed plans to greatly expand the PLA’s nuclear arsenal.
“We must accelerate the process of upgrading our nuclear ICBMs, continuously perfecting our nuclear armaments structure; strengthening strategic early warning mechanisms against enemy ballistic missiles; step up the production of new generation nuclear missiles to appropriately increase the number of our nuclear warheads so that the combat effectiveness of our nuclear missile arsenal will have a qualitative leap forward,” according to a translated portion of the document obtained by Inside the Ring.