It's been just under two months since the horrifying execution of journalist James Foley, and still, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continues its reign of terror. It's not limited to the group's captives, either: ISIS has threatened Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo and his employees, too, Costolo said Thursday. According to the social media exec, the terrorist group used Twitter to call for Twitter employees to be "assassinated" (the irony, it seems, was beyond them). Speaking at a Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, Costolo said that Twitter regularly closed down accounts held by people in the terrorist group — accounts that were being used to share their news and propaganda — and that this is what made ISIS mad. Said Costolo:
After we started suspending their accounts, some folks affiliated with the organisation used Twitter to declare that employees of Twitter and their management should be assassinated. Obviously that’s a jarring thing for anyone to deal with and I’ve spent a long time talking to the company about it.
Tweets sent by ISIS-affiliated users about a month ago called on "lone wolves" in the West to target the company, warning that they would "bring the war" to the Silicon Valley headquarters. "#The_Concept_of_Lone_Wolf_Attacks The time has come to respond to Twitter’s management by directly attacking their employees and assassinating them!! Those who will carry this out are the sleepers cells of death” reads one Tweet, since deleted, when translated from the Arabic.
The blood-curdling group has been no stranger to social media. In fact, Twitter has been a central core of ISIS' propaganda strategy. What they do is take hashtags that are trending in the West — things like the California earthquake's #napaearthquake and Ferguson's #MichaelSam — and then co-opt them, inserting them in horrific posts aimed to either recruit or terrify. (And often, both.)
But whenever they're found out, the users' accounts are of course deleted. As Costolo said without hesitation:
It’s against the law in many of the countries in which we operate for them to use it to promote their organisation. And when we do find those accounts we shut them down. We shut them down quite actively.
For some, though, social media can be a means — the only means — of communication. Just this week, the mother of Peter Kassig, the latest American to be threatened by ISIS, went on Twitter to try and get in contact with her son. She tweeted an image, from a new account, with a message to the terrorist group. In it, she said:
I am trying to get in touch with the Islamic State about my son’s fate. I am an old woman, and Abdul Rahman is my only child. My husband and I are on our own, with no help from the government. We would like to talk to you. How can we reach you?
Sadly, according to ABC News, a reply from one of the users she'd tagged, since deleted, read:
You trying to ask me for help makes no sense. Had I had the chance I would have already killed him!