Twitter pulled the account belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the radical Sunni militant group posted photographs of its violent activities in northern Iraq, including a mass execution.
As we noted yesterday, the photos included the capture, transport, and ultimately the killing of a number of Iraqi soldiers, presumably because they were Shiite.
Here's where I warn you that some of the following pictures are graphic.
The dissemination of these kinds of photos isn't new. Here's an example of another one, reportedly from the spring:
Back in February, Twitter also suspended the account of an ISIS member who tweeted images of an amputation.
And then came the secondary controversy. After yesterday's pictures made the rounds, Twitter shut down the ISIS account. WikiLeaks was quick to oppose the action on freedom of press grounds:
But as the world (slowly) becomes aware of the renascent and horrible things unfolding in Iraq, there's also an argument to be made these photographs have other value.
ISIS is helpfully documenting its horrendous crimes in Iraq. I hope the lawyers are cataloguing it for the crimes against humanity trials.— joshuafoust (@joshuafoust) June 14, 2014
While ISIS' use of a social media platform to show pictures of grisly executions is repugnant, if anything, we've learned in recent weeks that social media campaigns (however problematic) have the power to impel the international community act on issues where awareness is typically low or muddied by the complexity of a particular situation. There is very little divining needed when mass executions are being documented and publicly glorified by a terrorist group.
With the Twitter account suspended, the pictures of the ISIS insurgency and many of its horrific consequences have been preserved. They may be more useful out in the open.