Israel gets Twitter to block terror accounts

The Twitter accounts can still be accessed outside of Israel.

SOCIAL MEDIA GIANT Twitter (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If you’re in Israel and you click on a Twitter social media account belonging to Hezbollah or Hamas, you can’t see it.
Social media giant Twitter has blocked nearly three dozen accounts belonging to Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Gaza-based Hamas – both classified as terrorist organizations by Israel, the US and the EU.
Users in Israel instead are directed to a page that states: “@HamasInfoEn’s account has been withheld in Israel in response to a legal demand.
Twitter spokesman Ian Plunkett, declined to elaborate The Jerusalem Post on Israel’s legal requests, instead referring to the publishing platform’s “country withheld policy.”
“If you see the above message, it means Twitter was compelled to withhold the entire account specified (e.g., @username) in response to a valid legal demand, such as a court order,” the policy states.
The Twitter accounts can still be accessed outside of Israel or by Israelis using a VPN, or “virtual private network,” a proxy server that disguises the country from where a user is surfing the web.
In other locales, Hezbollah and Hamas accounts come with a disclaimer reading “Caution: This profile may include potentially sensitive content.”
The move by Twitter comes three weeks after Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan threatened to sue the company if Twitter did not comply with the Israeli demands.
In a public letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Erdan implored the social media company to cut off the mouthpieces to the groups.
“I have been informed by the relevant bodies in the Israel National Police and the Ministry of Justice that Twitter, unlike other social media companies, has largely been unresponsive to requests by the Israeli authorities to remove terrorist content and shut down terrorist accounts,” Erdan said, adding that: “Failure to do so may necessitate the initiation of legal and criminal proceedings against Twitter.”
In the letter, Erdan listed 40 accounts – attributed to Hamas, Hezbollah and also Islamic Jihad – with the URLs included.
Erdan’s office said Twitter only removed 35 of the 40 accounts, and he called on the company to take all the alleged accounts down.
“While Hamas leads the terror of burning kites in the South and Hezbollah threatens the residents of the North, it is not clear why Twitter is still being prevented from removing all the accounts belonging to these organizations,” Erdan said.
Israel, like many other countries, often requests social media companies remove content that incites and promotes violence and terrorism.
Unlike other social media networks – such as Facebook and Google – Twitter hasn’t been so willing to cooperate with Israeli government requests to remove questionable content, Erdan claimed.
“As a result, terrorist organizations have been increasing their use of Twitter as a preferred means of spreading their propaganda, as they are able to operate openly with little to no interference,” Erdan said, noting that Hamas has run an official Twitter account since March 2015.