(photo credit: AP [file])
The social networking website Facebook has shut down a fan page dedicated to supporters of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh, London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Sunday.
The page had accumulated over ten thousand "friends" when Facebook removed it, and Facebook has issued no official statement regarding the reasons for the webpage's deletion.
A supervisor of the Haniyeh fan page told Al Hayat that he expects similar action to be taken against a related Facebook page devoted to the apparently more popular Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal who has obtained over seventeen thousand "friends."
According to the report, "It is likely that the well known website "Facebook" is under pressure from Israel, the United States, and lobbies that are resisting the Palestinian people and movements of the Palestinian Resistance, among them Hamas."
Since the removal of the webpage, Facebook owners have received a barrage of emails demanding the page be put online again for the sake of freedom of opinion, the paper reported.
Many radical Islamic groups have utilized social networking sites such as Facebook in order to recruit, disseminate propaganda, and fundraise, according to Steve Emerson, terrorism expert and founder of the non-profit research group The Investigative Project on Terror.
"The terrorist war is a two-prong war, one war is fought militarily but the other war is a propaganda war, and that's what the social networking Websites accomplish," stated Emerson.
According to Emerson, the social networking websites are utilized by Islamic radicals to humanize themselves and their struggle, and serve as a means of communication within the group.
"There's a battle for the hearts and minds of the western world and using social networking sites increases their audience, it humanizes them, and that's what they want," said Emerson.
The Investigative Project on Terror is recognized as one of the most comprehensive centers of information on radical Islamic groups and has been used by a number of Government Agencies as a critical source of evidence in the past, according to its official Website.