Cloudflare under pressure to pull the plug on Hamas news site

“There is no difference between providing social media services and Internet services, and providing money, weaponry and financial services to a terrorist organization.”

Hamas members (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas members
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli legal group Shurat Hadin is urging cybersecurity firm Cloudflare to shutter accounts affiliated with Hamas after the company cut ties with a neo-Nazi site earlier this month.
The right-leaning NGO issued a call on Thursday for the San Francisco-based company to stop providing Web support for Hamas’s media relations site.
“By providing Hamas support, Cloudflare aids and abets terrorist attacks and make itself liable for the dangerous violence being perpetrated,” Shurat Hadin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said, referring to the many deadly attacks the Islamist group has committed against Israeli civilians.
Given a Clinton-era executive order that prohibits American companies from doing business with any State Department-defined terrorist organization, Darshan-Leitner said that Shurat Hadin is considering legal action if Cloudflare does not respond.
“Companies in the United States are not allowed to provide Hamas with commercial services or material support. They are a terrorist organization and they are not allowed to do business with any US company,” Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post.
The demand to shutter Hamas accounts comes after Cloudflare curtailed its services for The Daily Stormer, an antisemitic news site. This happened after a counterprotester died at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12.
Such pressure to shutter the social media accounts of terrorist organizations and neo-Nazi groups raises questions of free speech, according to critics of the move.
“If Cloudflare agrees to this, it opens the doors to all governments and entities to do the same thing. It’s a trickle-down effect,” said Jillian York, director of the digital-rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is also based in San Francisco. York referred to how undemocratic countries often ask Facebook to remove content posted by dissidents.
While neo-Nazi groups are protected by US free speech laws, US statutes differ when it comes to State Department-designated terrorist groups.
And the enforcement of so-called material support laws – which bar financial support or advocacy for terrorist organizations – may prove difficult, York said, due to the statute’s often vague language and wide-ranging clauses as to what constitutes “support.”
When it comes to terrorist groups whose rhetoric motivates attackers to kill people, the line between offering a soapbox and facilitating violence is often blurred.
“There is no difference between providing social media services and Internet services, and providing money, weaponry and financial services to a terrorist organization,” Darshan-Leitner said.
It is unclear whether Cloudflare will be forced to cut off ties to the Hamas website, given inconclusive case law surrounding “material support.”
A lawsuit by Shurat Hadin against Facebook – claiming the company allowed Hamas supporters to publish incitement on the site – was thrown out by a New York court in May.
The Cloudflare-backed site in question, named Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigade, functions as a Hamas media relations portal and offers press releases and official statements in English and Arabic.
The cybersecurity company could not be reached for comment by press time.