Earlier this week Hillary Clinton delivered a “long awaited” foreign policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The timing was probably fortuitous for her, given the arc of current events across the pond and the nation’s current debate on refugees and what to do about ISIS. (It probably isn’t bothering her overly much to have them talking about something other than her email server, either.) Still, anyone looking for some brilliant new plan on how to defeat the terrorists might have come away disappointed. As Callum Borchers at the Washington Post describes it, the speech was big on gauzy generalities but decidedly short on specific solutions. But there was one exception to be noted: Hillary was ready to shut these dangerous terrorists down… on Twitter.
Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy speech Thursday wasn’t exactly packed with specific strategies to defeat the Islamic State. But the Democratic presidential front-runner did offer this highly targeted approach:
“Social media companies can also do their part by swiftly shutting down terrorist accounts, so they’re not used to plan, provoke or celebrate violence,” she said.
Boom. Just shut it down. And do it swiftly.
On the surface, this sounds like a common-sense proposal. Social media is an important part of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine. When the group claimed responsibility for last week’s attacks on Paris, it did so on Twitter. Islamic State members routinely use social media to exchange instructions and recruit new members.
It’s the “on the surface” part which is always the giveaway in these types of debates. Sure, it sounds easy to shut down their accounts, but as anyone who uses Twitter or Facebook on a regular basis knows, that’s hardly the case. It turns out that the social media networks actually do shut down a lot of accounts which they believe are fomenting terror, but they know that they can’t definitively identify more than a tiny sliver of them. And even when they do, they seem to sweep up a lot more people than were intended. People such as Isis Anchalee.
@facebook why would you disable my personal account? MY REAL NAME IS ISIS ANCHALEE /facepalm
— Isis Anchalee (@isisAnchalee) November 16, 2015
@isisAnchalee Isis, sorry about this. I don't know what happened. I've reported it to the right people and we're working on fixing it.
— dimo (@bromid) November 17, 2015
Oops. I’m afraid that’s going to happen a lot. But you can hardly blame Twitter. What sort of filters are they supposed to use to root out the bad guys? You can’t just wipe out everyone mentioning ISIS in their timelines. If that were the rule my account would be banned five times before I’ve finished making breakfast on most days. And besides, how many actual terrorists post a lot of tweets with lines like, “Oh, by the way… I’m with ISIS and coming to **** YOU ALL UP!”
Further, don’t our own intelligence agencies use Twitter and Facebook as some of they key tools they have for finding, snooping on and eventually arresting terrorists? In fact, I’m pretty sure that at least one terrorist revealed his location on Twitter without intending to. That genius was rewarded with three JDAMs leveling his entire building.
Brilliant plan, Secretary Clinton. We’ll get right on that.