Twitter mistakes Arab Spring activist for IS leader, suspends account

  • IANS, New York
  • Updated: Jan 02, 2016 14:08 IST
Iyad El-Baghdadi said his account was suspended for about half-an-hour after he was misidentified as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (@iyad_elbaghdadi Twitter account)

An Arab Spring activist has accused Twitter of suspending his account after administrators mistook him for the leader of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.

Iyad El-Baghdadi, who has more than 70,000 Twitter followers, said his account was suspended for about half-an-hour after he was misidentified as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Indonesian newspaper Republika and the New York Post, BBC reported on Friday.

“To confuse an Arab man for the IS leader because of his very Arabic common surname is overt racism, @twitter,” read one of his initial tweets.

“My account gave you nearly 100 million twitter views this year, but you suspend me and keep the trolls running around, @twitter,” he wrote in another tweet.

El-Baghdadi said he received a message from Twitter saying he had “violated” its rules but did not specify the offence.

The activist, who also researches radicalisation, said the company needed to be “more transparent” about why and how people are suspended.

“I don’t think a single Arab country exists that doesn’t have a family with the surname El-Baghdadi,” his another tweet read.

Arab Spring refers to the democratic uprisings that arose independently and spread across the Arab world in 2011.

Twitter has not commented on the issue yet.

In a fresh bid to combat abusive behaviour, the micro-blogging site is also revising its rules to tackle hateful conduct which includes spreading terror messages online.

“We believe that protection from abuse and harassment is a vital part of empowering people to freely express themselves on Twitter,” Megan Cristina, director, trust and safety at Twitter, posted in a blog recently.

“The updated language emphasises that Twitter will not tolerate behaviour intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice. As always, we embrace and encourage diverse opinions and beliefs but we will continue to take action on accounts that cross the line into abuse,” she posted.

Over the past year, Twitter has taken several steps to fight abuse in order to protect freedom of expression.

It has empowered users with tools for blocking, muting and reporting abusive behaviour.

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