(October 23, 2019 / JNS) A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers accused Twitter on Tuesday of violating U.S. law in allowing content from U.S.-designated terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, to appear on its site.
Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said that if Twitter can regulate such content better than the U.S. government, then the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, should testify before Congress.
In a September 2019 letter to a bipartisan group of members—Gottheimer, Reed and Fitzpatrick, Twitter stated that the platform is no place for terrorist organizations. Twitter then proceeded to outline its policy, which makes exceptions for Hamas and Hezbollah.
“Right now, Twitter, as a U.S.-based company, is bucking U.S. law by blatantly supporting foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah,” said Gottheimer. “Twitter is literally, and arrogantly, disputing the U.S. government’s determination of what constitutes a terrorist organization.”
“There is simply no reason why terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, deserve access to Twitter’s platform to promote themselves as sponsors of violent, radical, hate-filled terrorism,” he continued. “Twitter should immediately comply with U.S. law and shut down these terrorist-affiliated handles and content.”
Fitzpatrick said “terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas should not have a presence on Twitter. It is well-documented that these groups use Twitter to spread propaganda and recruit new members. Twitter’s policy dictates that they follow the direction of national and international terrorist designations when restricting content. I highly suggest they begin to follow their own policies.”
A Twitter spokesperson told JNS on Wednesday that terrorist groups have no place on the social-media platform, and that the company “draws a distinction between the political and military factions of the organizations mentioned in the letter.”
“Individuals directly representing or promoting the political factions of these organizations may use Twitter in accordance with the Twitter Rules, including those outlined above,” continued the spokesperson. “Accounts affiliated with the military wings, however, are permanently suspended. This is consistent with our long-standing approach towards groups designated on terrorist organization lists that also hold elected seats in government.”
However, Twitter “may make limited exceptions for groups that have reformed or are currently engaging in peaceful resolution processes, as well as groups with representatives who have been elected to public office through elections, as is the case with parts of Hamas and Hezbollah,” according to the spokesperson.
“It is outrageous that Twitter, a U.S.-based publicly traded company, would carve out exceptions to accommodate internationally designated terrorist organizations,” Counter Extremism Project executive director David Ibsen told JNS. “Twitter’s posture is representative of the tech industry’s absurd inconsistency, especially since Twitter removed Hamas-linked accounts back in 2016. Twitter’s latest refusal to apply standards consistently on its platform demonstrates how tech continues to apply its rules when it deems it convenient.”
“Clearly, these companies cannot be trusted to ‘self-regulate,’ ” he added. “This kind of government oversight is needed to ensure that the tech industry operates in a way that protects our national security.”
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