Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Report details ISIS’s Twitter reach

LEDE: AT least 46,000 Twitter accounts were associated with supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report that analyzed data from the last four months of 2014. 

The report published Thursday by the Brookings Institution paints itself as one of the first broad studies of the social media presence of the terrorist organization, which has taken over swaths of Iraq and Syria and received worldwide condemnation after releasing gruesome execution videos of Americans and others with the help of digital technology. 

{mosads}While three quarters of ISIS-supporting accounts list Arabic as their primary language, about 20 percent select English. A group of between 500 and 2,000 accounts are largely responsible for the group’s traction on social media by engaging in “short, prolonged bursts of activity” that result in “third-party aggregation and insertion of tweeted content into search results,” according to the report. The supporter accounts had an average of about 1,000 followers and, in general, tweeted more than the average user. 

The report concludes that Twitter deleted at least 1,000 ISIS supporter accounts during the four-month time period studied, and the authors “found evidence of potentially thousands more” deletions. The report noted that deleting accounts can concretely limit the scope of ISIS’s social media reach, but large-scale deletion could isolate individuals and “increase the speed and intensity of radicalization.”

“Social media companies and the U.S government must work together to devise appropriate responses to extremism on social media,” concluded the authors, J.M Berger and Jonathon Morgan. 

AGENCY CONCERNS WITH FOIA REFORM: Federal agencies like the Department of Justice are quietly voicing concerns about legislation to update the Freedom of Information Act, according to Environment and Energy Publishing. And those worries are slowly making their way into House and Senate debate. Separate reform bills made it through the Senate and House last year, but the two chambers were not able to resolve the differences before the session ended.

NET NEUTRALITY BLOCKING BILL GAINS SPONSORS: A bill to block the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules has gained 12 more Republican sponsors since its introduction Tuesday, raising the total count to 32. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tenn.) bill would take away the “force and effect” of the regulations and would block any substantially similar rules without Congressional approval. A number of Republican leaders on the Commerce committee are hoping Democrats will sign on to an alternate and less partisan proposal. 

TECH FIRMS MAKE BUSINESS CASE FOR GAY MARRIAGE: Hundreds of businesses, including a number of technology and telecommunications companies, signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief submitted to the Supreme Court arguing that the patchwork of sometimes “discriminatory” gay marriage laws from state to state “impose [an] added economic burden” on their operations. They urged the court to overturn bans on gay marriage on the state level. Along with hundreds of others, those signing on included Twitter, Verizon, Qualcomm, Pandora Media, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Groupon, Google, Facebook, eBay, Dropbox, Cox, Comcast, AT&T, Apple, Amazon.

“Inconsistent marriage laws force companies to divert significant time and money to the creation and maintenance of complex administrative systems needed to differentiate treatment of otherwise indistinguishable employees based on the different marriage laws of the places where they live,” they argued. Oral arguments in the case have been scheduled for April 28

NETFLIX RELEASES FULL AUDIO: Netflix released a full audio recording of an executive who seemed to indicate the company was not completely pleased that the FCC voted to reclassify broadband, after arguing for stronger net neutrality rules for months. The recording shows that Netflix Chief Financial Officer David Wells said, “Were we pleased that it pushed to Title II, probably not, right? I mean, we were hoping that, there might be a non-regulated solution to it. But it seems like companies that are pursuing their commercial interests including us have to arrive at something like that. So we’re super pleased that there is now a notion, at least a vehicle, for a complaint…” 

SNUGGIE SELLER WILL PAY $8 MILLION: A direct marketing company that sells Snuggies, the Magic Mesh screen door and other “As Seen On TV” items has agreed to pay $8 million to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC accused Allstar Marketing Group of being deceptive with promotions that consumers got a free product with every one they bought. Those extras came with extra fees that caused the price to jump, the agency said, and many consumers didn’t know what they were getting into. 

ADVOCACY GROUP ADDS TO BOARD: Former LinkedIn executive Erika Rottenberg and renowned lawyer Andy Pincus are the newest members of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s board of directors, the advocacy group announced on Thursday. 


Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is giving the keynote at a USTelecom policy forum on cybersecurity starting at 8:30.

The New America Foundation is holding a discussion on cyber and physical threats to the electric grid at 10 a.m.


Opponents of new regulations from the FCC are warning that the agency will inadvertently ruin the future of TV.  

AT&T is taking shots at Netflix, accusing the video-streaming company of walking back its ardent support for net neutrality regulations that the FCC approved last week.    

Four Senate Democrats want new rules for advertising companies that track where people go online.  

President Obama’s picks for two top intellectual property positions are about to get a confirmation vote in the Senate. 

The Supreme Court on Thursday announced it will expedite the release of audio recordings in the new same-sex marriage case, handing a small victory to transparency advocates.


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com  and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

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Tags Brookings Institution Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Marsha Blackburn Ron Johnson Twitter

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