When a lone terrorist slaughtered 38 tourists at a Tunisian resort on June 26, the Islamic State turned to Twitter to claim responsibility and warn of more attacks on the world's nonbelievers, says the Washington Post. Three days before the assault, the Islamic State relied on another popular U.S. social-media platform, Google's YouTube, to promote a grisly propaganda video of three separate mass killings. As the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, continues to hold large parts of Iraq and Syria and inspire terrorist attacks in more countries, it has come to rely upon U.S. social-media companies to summon fresh recruits to its cause, spread its propaganda and call for attacks. The social-media savvy of the militant group is raising difficult questions for many U.S. firms: how to preserve global platforms that offer forums for expression while preventing groups from exploiting those free-speech principles to advance their terrorist campaigns.
“ISIS has been confronting us with these really inhumane and atrocious images, and there are some people who believe if you type 'jihad' or 'ISIS' on YouTube, you should get no results,” said Victoria Grand, Google's director of policy strategy. “We don't believe that should be the case. Actually, a lot of the results you see on YouTube are educational about the origins of the group, educating people about the dangers and violence. But the goal here is how do you strike a balance between enabling people to discuss and access information about ISIS, but also not become the distribution channel for their propaganda?” Some officials say the companies are not going far enough. “They are being exploited by terrorists,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin. “I think there is recognition now that there is a problem, and so we're starting to see people at the companies address additional resources. But more needs to be done because we're still seeing the threat, and the threat is increasing, not decreasing.”