Twitter suspends accounts linked to extremist groups
Twitter appears to have suspended the accounts of Hezbollah TV station Al Manar, as well as accounts affiliated with Hamas-linked media groups.
Al Manar’s Arabic, English, Spanish and French accounts were unavailable yesterday, although the accounts of specific programmes on the Lebanese station were still active.
Al Manar claimed Twitter made the move as a result of political pressure.
In September, four members of the US Congress sent a letter to the chief executives of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook calling for the companies to remove material and accounts affiliated with US-designated terrorist groups.
Accounts linked to Hezbollah and Hamas were mentioned in the letter.
Josh Gottheimer, who signed the letter alongside Tom Reed, Max Rose and Brian Fitzpatrick, said YouTube and Facebook complied with their demands but Twitter did not.
In response to the letter, Twitter said its users were not allowed to express an affiliation with extremist groups, use their insignia, provide or distribute services to further an terrorist organisation’s goals, recruit for or promote such groups. But Twitter said it made “limited exceptions … for groups with representatives who have been elected to public office through elections, as is the case with parts of Hamas and Hezbollah”.
Twitter also said it drew a distinction between the political and paramilitary arms of the organisations. While the US does not recognise a difference between the two arms of Hezbollah, the EU and several other states make a distinction.
Last month, the four congressmen sent another letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey about the use of the platform by organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
The letter called on Twitter to update its terms of service and remove Hezbollah and Hamas-affiliated content and Twitter handles by November 1, “consistent with our laws”.
It is not known if the decision to remove Al Manar was a direct response to the letter, which named the TV station specifically. Pro-Hamas news channel Al Quds TV also appears to have been removed.
“There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organisations and violent extremist groups. We have a long history of taking strong enforcement action, using a combination of people, partnerships and technology,” a Twitter spokesman said.