Twitter threatened with court over Hezbollah tweets
TWITTER has been threatened with legal action by an Israeli pressure group in an attempt to force it to close accounts run by Hezbollah and other organisations classed as terrorist by the United States.
Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Centre, demanded in a letter to the microblogging service that it block access to Hezbollah, the East African al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab and other outlawed “Foreign Terrorist Organisations”.
“Please be advised that providing social media and other associated services to terrorist groups is illegal and will expose Twitter, Inc. and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized by terrorisms carried out by Hezbollah, al-Shabaab or other FTOs,” Shurat HaDin’s letter said.
The lawsuit would target accounts such as @Almanarnews, which is run by a Hezbollah television station in Lebanon.
It adds to pressure on Twitter in the United States over tweeting by militant organisations. Joe Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called on the firm this week to shut down accounts that support the Taliban.
Twitter reportedly rebuffed his call on grounds that the Taliban is not officially designated as Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the State Department. The firm has previously signalled its commitment to free speech by arguing that “the tweets must flow” and only shutting down accounts following a violation of its terms of service, such as impersonating someone else or harrassing other users.
In its letter however, Shurat HaDin said Twitter was acting illegally by allowing organisations that, unlike the Taliban, are labelled Foreign Terrorist Organisations to tweet propaganda.
The pressure group, which says it fights terrorism by cutting off funding and seeking compensation for victims through the courts, in particular said that Twitter was in violation of a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed "any assistance or support" to organisations on the State Department list.
Hezbollah “and its terrorist networks have entered the global world of social media to further their murderous agenda”, said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, executive director of Shurat HaDin, in a statement released with the letter.
“Twitter’s complicit service to known foreign terrorist organizations is not only morally irresponsible, it is also illegal,” she said. “Twitter needs to take responsibility for the platform it is providing to known terrorists and cease and desist immediately. Their failure to do so exposes them to severe liability."
Her group said it would sue unless Twitter "immediately provide us written confirmation" that it will shut down Hezbollah and al-Shabaab accounts. Twitter has declined to comment on the threat.