Shurat HaDin warns Twitter over terrorist accounts

Allowing Hezbollah, al-Shabaab to have accounts violates US anti-terror laws, say Israel Law Center.

January 1, 2012 10:38
2 minute read.
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Social media giant Twitter could face legal action in US courts if it continues to allow terrorist organizations al- Shabaab and Hezbollah to use its services, the Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin) warned over the weekend.

The Law Center has sent a letter to Twitter CEO Richard Costolo, warning that the company could fall foul of strict US anti-terror legislation by providing social media services to organizations designated as terrorist groups under US law.

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Over 7,700 people follow the Hezbollah- affiliated al-Manar TV’s Twitter account. Al-Manar’s tweets link back to its Arabic-language news site, which includes articles condemning the “Zionist Enemy Entity” alongside a photo gallery of Hezbollah “martyrs” and a video library of speeches by Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader.

The US lists al-Manar TV as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.

Somali-based al-Shabaab, which tweets in English under the username HSM Press Office, has over 7,200 Twitter followers. Its user profile explains that al-Shabaab is “part of the global struggle towards the revival of the Islamic Khilaafa [Caliphate].”

Law Center Director Nitsana Darshan- Leitner said that by permitting al- Shabaab and Hezbollah to run accounts, Twitter is violating US antiterror laws. Darshan-Leitner cited a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court, which found that US-based NGO the Humanitarian Law Project had contravened the USA PATRIOT Act, prohibiting providing material support to designated terrorist groups.

Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that in Holder v.

Humanitarian Law Project, the NGO had tried to use freedom of speech arguments in its defense but had failed.

Twitter and its CEO Costolo could be similarly criminally and civilly liable for any future attacks against US citizens carried out by the groups, the Law Center said.

Social networking sites have been praised for their role in helping facilitate popular uprisings in the Middle East, including the Arab Spring. Iran’s “Green Revolution” in support of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi was dubbed the “Twitter Revolution” after protesters used the network to communicate.

However, the sites have also attracted criticism for allowing hate speech. In May last year, the Israel Law Center wrote a warning letter to Facebook, after the social networking site allowed Palestinians to create a page calling for a “third intifada” against Israel.

Facebook subsequently took the page down, Darshan-Leitner said, and hoped Twitter would do the same.

“There is no reason to facilitate terror organizations,” Darshan-Leitner said.

“We expect that once we bring this issue to Twitter’s attention, they will move to remove the accounts.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

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