Terrorists Mock Bids to End Use of Social Media

Terrorists Mock Bids to End Use of Social Media

SAN FRANCISCO — In the hours after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, Calif., a familiar voice celebrated the attacks on Twitter: “California, we have already arrived with our soldiers. Decide how to be your end, with knife or bomb.”

That comment was posted from the 335th Twitter account of a pro-Islamic State group that calls itself Asawitiri Media. Twitter has repeatedly tried to cut off the authors of the account, most recently known to its thousands of followers as @TurMedia335, @TurMedia334 and @TurMedia333.

As soon as Twitter suspends one account, a new one is created. After the group’s 99th account was suspended, it taunted Twitter by creating @IslamicState100, posting images of birthday candles, cake, trophies and fireworks.

Politicians and even some technologists say that account, and hundreds just like it, show how Silicon Valley’s efforts to crack down on the use by terrorists of social media have been toothless. And Washington is using the latest terrorist attacks to renew its calls for Silicon Valley to roll back the encryption in their products. On Sunday, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, called on tech companies to become more aggressive.

“Resolve means depriving jihadists of virtual territory, just as we work to deprive them of actual territory,” she told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “They are using websites, social media, chat rooms and other platforms to celebrate beheadings, recruit future terrorists and call for attacks. We should work with host companies to shut them down.”

But as the 335 versions of the pro-Islamic State Twitter account demonstrate, technology companies are dealing with a tenacious adversary. Also, when it comes to terrorists using encryption technologies to hide their communications — a frequent complaint of law enforcement — technology companies are quick to point out that of the top five encryption apps recommended by the Islamic State, none are American-made.

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