Twitter suspends Hezbollah's Al Manar and Hamas-linked media accounts

The move follows a campaign by four US members of Congress

FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2018, file photo Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington. "While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions," Dorsey said Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in a series of tweets announcing Twitters new policy of banning all political advertising from its service. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
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Social networking site Twitter appears to have suspended the accounts of Hezbollah TV station Al Manar as well as accounts affiliated with Hamas-linked media.

There was no official comment from Twitter regarding the news, but Al Manar's Arabic, English, Spanish and French accounts were unavailable. The accounts of specific programmes on the station were still active on Twitter as of Sunday.

Al Manar said that the “suspicious” move was on account of political pressure.

On September 17, four members of the US Congress sent a letter to the chief executives of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook demanding the sites remove material and accounts affiliated with US-designated terror groups. Hamas and Hezbollah-affiliated accounts were mentioned in the letter.

Josh Gottheimer, one of the four signatories to the letter, said that YouTube and Facebook complied with the letter but Twitter did not.

A reported reply from Twitter to the letter said that users are not allowed to express affiliation with a terrorist group, use the group’s insignia, provide or distribute services to further the organisation’s violent extremist goals or  recruit for or promote such groups. But the company reportedly said it made “limited exceptions … for groups with representatives who have been elected to public office through elections, as is the case with parts of Hamas and Hezbollah”.

It also reportedly said that Twitter draws a distinction between the political and military arms of the organisations. While the US government does not recognise a difference between the two arms of Hezbollah, the European Union and several other states do keep a distinction, in part to enable co-operation with the Lebanese government and the ministries assigned to Hezbollah.

On October 22, the four US members of Congress again sent a letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey regarding the use of the platform by "foreign terrorist organisations" including Hezbollah and Hamas.

The letter from Mr Gottheimer as well as Tom Reed, Max Rose and Brian Fitzpatrick said: “We could not understand why Twitter is eager to provide a platform for affiliates of these terror groups, including the Hezbollah affiliate Al Manar, which was added to the US Treasury Department’s Special Designated Global Terrorist Entity list in 2006.”

They called on Twitter to update its terms of service and remove Hamas and Hezbollah-affiliated content and twitter handles by November 1, “consistent with our laws”.

The four have been active, on Twitter and elsewhere, about their push for the site to remove all Hezbollah and Hamas material.

Mr Reed tagged Mr Dorsey in a tweet asking, “you think you are above the law? Come testify before Congress about why you are promoting terror content on your platform. Otherwise, remove all content from Foreign Terrorist Organisations and affiliated profiles, including Hamas and Hezbollah, by November 1st.”

It is not known if the move to remove Al Manar was a response to the letter as the company has not spoken publicly on the matter.

But pro-Hamas news channel Quds News Network appears to have also been removed.

The National has reached out to Twitter for comment.