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Facebook and Twitter Help Thwart A Militant Plot In Brazil

3D-printed Facebook and Twitter logos are seen in this picture illustration made in Zenica

3D-printed Facebook and Twitter logos are seen in this picture illustration made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 26, 2016. REUTERS.

An unlikely cooperation of a team of investigators and tech-smart guys helped prevent a major Rio Olympics Catastrophe.

In an interview with a Television news program, Judge Marcos Josegrei da Silva praised the social network giants Facebook and Twitter for playing an instrumental role in catching the suspected militants.

 “The companies began to provide data related to the content of the conversations and data about where those conversations were posted,” said the judge, providing no further detail.

The information provided by Facebook and Twitter helped in arrest of 12 suspected extremists who were planning to attack at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, beginning from 5th August. Brazilian investigators revealed that the suspects under investigation, named “Operation Hashtag”, have ties with the ISIS militant group and had discussed the attack over the internet and messaging.

Brazilian Federal Police officers escort one of the 10 people they arrested on suspicions of ties to Islamic State in Sao Paulo. Credits: REUTERS

Spokespersons from both Twitter and Facebook have categorically stated that their companies have zero tolerance policy for terrorism as well as other crimes and would cooperate with investigators and law enforcement when necessary. The information provided by both companies included the online behavior of the suspects which was the key in locating them. However, it is unclear how much content was shared with the authorities and whether it involved actual user exchanges. 

Recently, these internet Titans have done more to quash extremist content and discussion. For example, Facebook and YouTube have an automatic system that deletes content depicting graphic violence including beheadings. Similarly, Twitter has begun to delete many pro-militant and pro-ISIS accounts and tweets in the aftermath of the Nice attack by upping its post-incident response.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL: Workers stand at an entrance to the Olympic Park construction site. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)


It is true that cooperating with the investigators puts a big question mark on social media privacy and especially cooperating with Brazilian investigators, who have pushed these companies for data to solve various crimes. Still, Rio Olympics is quite a high-profile, international event and its safety deemed the cooperation necessary.

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