Elon Musk's X selling subscription services to extremist groups, report says

Platform could be 'materially supporting' Houthis and Hezbollah, counter-extremism group claims

Social media platform X reportedly accepted payment for subscriptions from extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Houthis. EPA
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Social media platform X must take urgent steps to stop the sale of its subscription services to extremist groups, a US-based non-profit has said.

Last week, reports emerged that X, formerly Twitter, gave blue checks to accounts linked with sanctioned terrorist groups and individuals, including Hezbollah leaders and the recently re-designated Houthis.

Accepting even small amounts of money could be construed as "material support", according to the senior director of the Counter Extremism Project, Hans-Jakob Schindler.

Under US law, X is legally obliged to refrain from providing services to sanctioned groups in exchange for payment, and must promptly report illicit transactions to appropriate authorities.

"While some steps seem to have been taken to address this issue, X's belated response to this oversight, and only in the face of public scrutiny, is insufficient", Mr Schindler said.

The company's actions remain "deeply concerning and demonstrate an apparent disregard for its legal obligations", he added.

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"If X continues to grant subscriptions to accounts affiliated with designated terrorist organisations and individuals, it raises serious questions about the company’s commitment to the law. Social media platforms must remember that the First Amendment does not protect terrorism financing.”

Last week Tech Transparency Group, a non-profit which monitors the tech industry, reported that it had found 28 blue check mark accounts associated with US-sanctioned entities.

In response, the Elon Musk-owned company posted that it would review the accounts in question and removed several of the check marks later that day.

X gives blue checks to users who pay $8 a month for its premium subscription service.

However, its terms of service prohibits the sale of subscriptions to entities that are on the US Treasury Department's sanctions list.

"As social media platforms continue to face difficulties in reducing extremist content online, it is clear that more needs to be done to make them aware of their responsibilities", the CEP added.

"Moving forward, it is imperative for X to prioritise compliance with US laws and ensure that its platform is not exploited for illicit purposes."

Updated: February 22, 2024, 8:36 PM