Terrorism is tensely taunting mankind, and using Twitter to do so. Refresh a reliable news source and new information as to the presence, politics and power of terroristic troupes is unearthed by a new act of inhumanity almost each day. Bombs are dropping like flies, and for once, you don’t wish you were a fly on the wall.

But the terrifying platform in which terrorism makes it dark debut – is one that lives in your phone, captivates your time, and buzzes in your pocket – social media. The Islamic State, ISIS, has constructed a clever, sophisticated, stimulating propaganda parade using social media networks, involving Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp. But are media corporations responsible for censoring the rights of free speech pinky promised to all in 1791?

Photo by Danielle Wiener-Bronner
Photo by Danielle Wiener-Bronner

Should or shouldn’t we impose a wider censorship policy on the world wide web that is a host of both personal free speech and the rise of terrorism?

Modern revolutionaries are using social media to radicalize, recruit, and raise money towards their mission of widespread destruction and scandal. With an adept eye for what explodes on the world wide web, terrorist groups have featured their explosions in YouTube videos, Tweets, and Facebook images. For the sites that hold your family photos, sixth grade statuses, and wedding album, has been infiltrated to induce fear, sway your perception of the reality of the war on terror, and make you aware, terror is not just in your nightmares, in Paris, or the Middle East.

Official Islamic State profiles have lived on Twitter for weeks at a time, accumulating thousands and thousands of followers before ever being expunged from the internet.

According to the Federal Scoop, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said the Islamic State “has managed to recruit more than 16,000 new members from half the countries in the world” with the manipulation of social media. A recent study by the Middle East Media Research Institute puts Western social media companies in the center of al-Qaida and ISIS recruitment efforts.

How do we protect our children from videos of violent beheadings or captivating campaigns to flee to the Middle East to fight one of the greatest battles on terrorism of all time?

Dependence on social media is driving jihad around the world today, and the same site that 13 year olds surf following after school activities, is hosting a festering pool of freedom into the terrain of modern, online terrorism.

Had Facebook, YouTube, Twitter ceased to exist – could lives have been saved by the 16,000 extremists that would have likely never encountered the opportunity to join the war on the West?

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo pledged to locate and remove terrorist accounts that were posting graphic images and beheading videos, following the slaying of American journalist James Foley. But words only mean so much – the next four slaughters carried out by ISIS, including Alan Henning, Peter Kassig, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines, were tweeted, stained with horrific images of lifeless corpses and inhumane decapitations.

Gabriel Weimann from the University of Haifa found that nearly 90 percent of organized terrorism occurs on the internet through the means of social media. Thus, the world wide web that is our automatic dictionary, email sender, and essay writer, is also a platform for radicalism recruitment, intelligence gathering, and promotion of extremism.  

According to the Telegraph, social-media monitor Recorded Future found that “Isis had succeeded in creating hype with a total of 700,000 accounts discussing the terrorist group.”

But how is one corporation to monitor the hundreds of millions of web to surface the web each day, each hour, each minute? The U.S government censoring terrorists’ social media accounts is a measure that would violate terrorists’ free speech. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment, but how does this human right apply to those who are not in the borders of the USA, but infiltrating our Western web? Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube rigidly refuse to censor content themselves, instead relying on the resources of third parties, primarily users of the web, to flag distasteful content. Section 230 of the Telecom Act of 1996 frees these major media corporations from responsibility for content its users post – as long as they are unaware of such. Those who work with content removal policies in these mass means of media are protected by the ‘regulation’ that they are free from ‘policing any content themselves.’

Internet freedom campaigner Aaron Swartz predicted the dangers of privately owned pieces of the web limiting what content could and could not be posted, what content could and could not stay online. He refers to such as “corporate tyranny,” in which companies are limiting the freedom of the users that run it.

Photo by Ellen Clegg
Photo by Ellen Clegg

Many mothers, teenagers, friends on Facebook were alarmed by the decapitation videos that surfaced on their feed after finding that no matter how many times they reported the frightening content, they received the same message, claiming “this video does not violate Facebook’s community standard on graphic violence, which includes depicting harm to someone or something.”

How are computers to monitor the content that harms us as emotional, sensitive, humanistic humans? There are not enough people able, there is not enough time in a day, not enough resources for every photo, video, comment on the internet to be critically censored – it is just not possible.

The branding of terrorism is targeting a network of global communication that half of children will utilize by age 10, according to Daily Mail. Is it ethically permissible for major media corporations to allow this consistent emergence of terrorism to leave its trace on the internet?

Many companies are well aware of the measures necessary to police, filter, and efface content that violates general laws, but what are they doing to police the incitation of violence by terrorists that stir epic ethical conflict? Major social media networks use algorithms to automatically detect and prevent the sharing or posting of pornography, especially child pornography. YouTube employs a similar technique to avoid copyrighted content from resurfacing without due credit. So, in videos displaying mad manslaughter and baths of blood, do we not engage a similar system of protecting the young from the toxicity of terrorism that is coming closer and closer to each of our homes?

What will it be America, the libertarian rights of the constitutional First Amendment or the protection of our children from the terrorism on our Facebook news feed? The manifestation of media is real.

Speak now or forever hold your peace.


Featured photo by Ludovico Laccino