Pressure from Israeli authorities compelled Twitter to remove 20 accounts belonging to top Hamas and Hizballah leaders in the first half of 2018, the Middle East Monitor reports. These include accounts belonging to Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Fawzi Barhoom and Rawhi Barhoum.
The move came after the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s Cybercrime Department issued a June 26 letter demanding that Twitter “permanently close” the accounts.
“Article 24 to the Israeli Counterterror Law (2016) states that any act of solidarity with a terror organization including any publication of its actions is an offense punishable by three or five years imprisonment,” the letter said.
It identified Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizballah as organizations Israel considers covered by the anti-terrorism law. The United States also has designated the organizations as terrorist groups.
Twitter says it takes local laws into consideration: “If we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
It suspended 205,156 accounts for violating its rule against promoting terrorism, 91 percent of which were flagged by the company’s internal tools, Twitter told the Times of Israel.
Twitter also recently enforced an Israeli gag order related to a botched operation in Gaza. The website Electronic Intifada received notice from Twitter to delete a link to a story revealing the identities of Israel’s undercover operatives even though the site is based in the United States.
Measures will be taken against Twitter under Israeli law if it failed to respond to demands to close the terrorist accounts, Israel’s Security Minister Gilad Erdan wrote in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and its Executive Chairman Omid Kordestani.
While the accounts are blocked in Israel, they remain active elsewhere, the Times of Israel reported. Haniyeh’s account, Fawzi Barhoom’s account, Hamas’ English account and Hamas’ Hebrew account – all of which Israel requested to be permanently suspended – were accessible from the U.S. on Twitter Friday. The same was true for the Hizballah-linked Electronic Resistance, which Israel demanded be suspended. Other Hizballah-related accounts on the Israeli list, however, appear to have been deleted.
Posts by State Department-designated Palestinian terrorist groups besides Hamas, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) and the pro-PIJ Palestine Post also remain active.