Jakarta: Social media giant Twitter suspended 1,210,357 accounts for promoting terrorism between August 2015 and the end of 2017.
That figure, detailed by the company’s head of public policy in Indonesia, Agung Yudha, was shared at a regional counter-terrorism meeting in the Indonesian capital on Tuesday.
The suspensions represent just a fraction of the website’s active user base – about 330 million at the start of 2018.
Social media use is huge in Indonesia, which is estimated to have the fifth-highest number of Twitter users in the world, and in Jakarta in particular, which has been named the most active Twitter city in the world.
Mr Yudha’s presentation to senior ministers from Australia, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand was reportedly one of the highlights of the meeting.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who attended the meeting, said the “incredible” number highlighted just how much more work social media companies had to do to combat terrorism.
“It’s a significant figure but it may just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the quantum that we need to deal with, not only today but as the use of social media increases as years go by,” he said.
Mr Dutton welcomed the rise of social media, but said that it meant “those companies need to accept greater responsibility they have in the past”.
“Those companies also have a specific obligation - to engage with and assist law enforcement organisations - particularly where encrypted messages or services are being used to carry messages conveyed and used in the planning of a terrorist attack or other serious criminal enterprise,” he said.
Mr Dutton said that at a Five Eyes - the US/UK/Australia/Canada/New Zealand intelligence group - meeting in Australia in August this year “it was very hard even to get the companies to turn up to be a part of the conversation and that was very disappointing”.
He praised Twitter for speaking the regional counter-terrorism grouping, but added that Australians, Indonesians and citizens of other nations expected law enforcement and intelligence agencies to be able to detect a message conveyed over a social media platform that could result in the loss of civilian lives.
“That’s the responsibility that we need to share with social media platforms in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past,” he said.
“I think there is more engagement now, I hope that continues into the future because I think the companies understand the unified position of those countries represented in the room today, but munch further afield, including the Five Eyes partners.”
Mr Dutton’s counterpart, the Co-ordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, said the development of technology was both positive and negative.
”One of the positive sides is the development of e-commerce. But the negative is that social media is also used by terrorists to influence people, to provide training on assembling bombs etc,” he said.
“So we discussed ways on how governments and private sector can work together to minimise the negative sides of social media being used for evil purposes. We agreed that a working group will develop [programs] which we can implement effectively.”
The threat posed by returning foreign fighters was also discussed at length at the meeting of the nine nations, with agreement reached for greater – and deeper – co-operation.