Micro-blogging site Twitter on Thursday mistook an innocent man, known to frequently attack the Islamic State, as the brutal organisation’s chief and briefly suspended his account.
Iyad El-Baghdadi, who has over 70,000 followers, has slammed Twitter accusing it of racism.
He tweeted, “To confuse an Arab man for the IS leader because of his very Arabic common surname is overt racism @Twitter” (sic).”
To confuse an Arab man for the IS leader because of his very Arabic common surname is overt racism, @twitter.
— İyad el-Baghdadi | إياد البغدادي (@iyad_elbaghdadi) December 31, 2015
El Baghdadi was allegedly misidentified as IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Indonesian newspaper Republika and the New York Post.
Twitter has not made any comments on why it suspended the account of the Norway-based human rights activist, who also researches the causes of radicalisation and how it can be prevented.
El-Baghdadi told the BBC that he had received a message from Twitter saying he had “violated” its rules but not specifying the offence.
He tweeted, “I don’t think a single Arab country exists that doesn’t have a family with the surname El-Baghdadi,”
I don't think a single Arab country exists that doesn't have a family with the surname El-Baghdadi. https://t.co/M7lvwaaWIV
— İyad el-Baghdadi | إياد البغدادي (@iyad_elbaghdadi) January 1, 2016
Britain’s The Independent quoted him as saying that the social media company’s actions were “pretty crass and stupid.”
He said, “For a company like Twitter to confuse an Arab Spring activist with an Arab terrorist based upon a common Arab surname really does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. No specific reason was given for the suspension- I merely received a vague message about having violated the Twitter rules (a ridiculous enough accusation).
“There was no mention of which Twitter rule in particular they claimed I ‘violated’. However, given the recent confusion with several news outlets citing me as the ‘Isis leader’, I think this is likely what happened here.”
Twitter recently said that it had updated its rules on “abusive behaviour and hateful conduct” in a bid to better protect users.