Activists and experts who monitor the Twitter traffic of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its supporters noticed something odd last week when many accounts suddenly disappeared.
The activists exchanged messages about the missing accounts, suspecting they had been suspended.
On Thursday, a Twitter representative confirmed what some were saying and put a number on it.
The social media network’s violations department suspended approximately 10,000 accounts April 2 “for tweeting violent threats,” the representative said.
It was impossible to independently verify the assertion because Twitter’s data is not public. But it would be the biggest single mass purge by Twitter of accounts linked to ISIL, also known as ISIS, which some experts believe has as many as 90,000 affiliated accounts.
The suspensions came against a backdrop of rising criticism that Twitter has allowed ISIL to exploit the social network to spread propaganda, glorify violence and seek recruits.
Twitter previously acknowledged suspending as many as 2,000 ISIL-linked accounts per week in recent months.
The Twitter representative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, attributed the surge of suspensions in part to a widely publicized effort by ISIL opponents, including some hacking groups and online vigilantes, to expose suspect accounts and report them as violators.
“We received a large amount of reports,” the representative said.
Under Twitter’s rules, an account can be reported to the violations department under a protocol explained on its website. Twitter bans the promotion of violence but also is committed to free speech in a system that carries approximately 500 million messages a day in multiple languages.
While some anti-ISIL activists said the suspensions would make it more difficult to monitor the militant group’s activities, others welcomed the news and said it vindicated their efforts to deny Islamic State a social media platform.