On Sunday, ISIS supporters posted violent threats against Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and other employees of the service.
BuzzFeed published excerpted translations of the threats:
You started this failed war. ... We told you from the beginning it’s not your war, but you didn’t get it and kept closing our accounts on Twitter, but we always come back ... When our lions [brave men] come and take your breath, you will never come back to life.
ISIS frequently turns to Twitter to post and share its propaganda, but accounts used for this purpose can be shut down because Twitter’s terms of service prohibits “direct, specific threats of violence against others, ... [or use] for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities.” BuzzFeed points out that the exact source of the threats is unknown, though they are being shared by ISIS supporters.
Last month, Twitter told Yahoo News that it doesn't monitor accounts for suspected terrorist behavior itself, but rather relies on users to flag inappropriate posts and accounts. “Like our peer companies, we do not proactively monitor content,” a Twitter spokesman said at the time. “Users report potential rules violations to us, we review their reports and take action if the content violates our rules.”
A representative for Twitter told BuzzFeed and others, “Our security team is investigating the veracity of these threats with relevant law enforcement officials.”
Jillian C. York pointed out in a June piece for Slate that Twitter has been inconsistent about removing content. “The company has been opaque when it comes to taking terrorist content offline,” she wrote. But members of Congress having been pressuring Twitter to monitor and contain terrorist messages on the social network. And at the same time, groups like WikiLeaks have condemned Twitter’s actions against ISIS and others as free-speech violations.
Twitter is certainly between a rock and a hard place, but making everyone unhappy could be the only way for the company to navigate such a murky situation. Personal threats against employees may raise the stakes, though.