Twitter has suspended multiple accounts linked to Lebanese political and militant group Hezbollah, Palestinian political and militant group Hamas and Yemeni political and militant group the Houthis.
A Twitter spokesperson told AFP that the move was related to the company’s concerns over ‘terrorism’, saying that “there is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organisations and violent extremist groups.”
While Hamas and Hezbollah are classified as terrorist organisations by the US, Israel, and some European countries, other countries, including China, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Switzerland, Syria, Venezuela and others do not classify them as such. Yemen’s Houthi militia, meanwhile, are classified as a terrorist organisation only by a handful of states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
The recent suspensions reportedly include most accounts tied to Hezbollah in a number of languages, including Al-Manar TV, a Hezbollah-affiliated television station with over 480,000 followers, and the Quds News Network, a Palestinian media account containing pro-Hamas content with over 630,000 followers. The handles of the accounts have been replaced with the message that Twitter “suspends accounts which violate the Twitter rules.”
‘The Central Warfare Channel,’ an account affiliated with Yemen’s Houthi militia, was also shut down.
In the wake of the restrictions, the Quds News Network released a statement saying that “placing restrictions on, deleting or blocking accounts is a demonstration of clear bias against Palestinian media and an attack on it.” Al-Manar called the suspension of its account a “political” act.
A group of US lawmakers asked Twitter to delete the groups’ accounts last week, accusing the company of “blatantly violating US law” by allowing Hamas and Hezbollah to continue using the popular microblogging site. The lawmakers’ appeal also addressed YouTube and Facebook, and gave the social media companies until November 2 to get rid of the ‘offending’ accounts.
Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces, praised the company’s move, tweeting that “internationally recognized terror groups should never have a platform for their violent extremism.”
Kudos to @Twitter for suspending the accounts of terror groups #Hezbollah and #Hamas.— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) November 2, 2019
Internationally recognized terror groups should never have a platform for their violent extremism. pic.twitter.com/2Dm8bEcB6S
Israeli Foreign Ministry director general Yuval Rotem echoed the IDF spokesman’s sentiment, calling Twitter’s decision “an important move.”
An important move by Twitter to suspend the accounts of #Iran-backed terror groups #Hezbollah & #Hamas.— Yuval Rotem 🇮🇱 (@Yuval_Rotem) November 3, 2019
Denying these dangerous terror orgs access to infect social media with their extremist ideologies contributes to the fight against global terrorism.https://t.co/5Vn3nnDTd6
Some users suggested that the company should move further and block the accounts of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US Senator Bernie Sanders, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and other officials and politicians they don’t like.
However, others criticised the company’s move, suggesting this was a slippery slope for further censorship, and suggesting that “censorship is for cowards.”
“Meanwhile, the US and Israel are free to spread actual propaganda on Twitter,” one angry user wrote.
Important video about the attempts of USA representatives in censoring and controlling the social media and banning Hezbullah and Hamas affiliated accounts.— Ali (@allushiii) November 2, 2019
Today Al-Manar English, Quds News and Hezbollah military media accounts were suspended after a request by 4 congressmen🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/pPWrI2CoZ9
Hope IDF terrorists are next.— Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59) November 2, 2019
Kinda a slippery slope isn’t it?— Don't Capsize (@DontCapsize) November 3, 2019
Meanwhile US and Israel are free to spread actual propaganda on twitter.— 16 tons (@tumbrelista) November 2, 2019
I could understand if they banned a news network that preaches lies, prejudice, and supports hate crimes and crimes against humanity (like most Israeli news networks), but doing this to Palestinian news networks is just wrong.— Vincent Gayder AKA Vinchenzo The Jackal (@GayderVincent) November 2, 2019
Censorship is for cowards— GulfSurfer (@gulf_surfer) November 2, 2019