Twitter Blocks Hamas, Hezbollah Accounts Following Israeli Pressure

Shuttering of 35 accounts comes after Israel's public security minister sent a letter to the social network's CEO charging that Twitter has been 'irresponsive to Israeli requests'

Hezbollah members parade with a mock missile launcher in the Lebanese city of Nabatiyeh.
Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP

Twitter has blocked two accounts belonging to Hamas and closed or blocked some 35 Hamas and Hezbollah accounts in Israel.

The action comes about two weeks after Israel’s public security and strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, sent a letter to the social media network’s CEO and executive chairman saying that Twitter has been “largely irresponsive to requests by the Israeli authorities to remove terrorist content and shut down terrorist accounts.”

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Erdan said in the letter that “enabling terrorist organizations to operate freely and spread their messages via your platform may be a violation of existing Israeli law regarding providing support to terrorist organizations.”

The letter supplied a partial list of Twitter accounts affiliated with terror organizations and threatened legal action if they are not removed.

On Monday, a visit to the Twitter page of @hamasinfo from an Israeli computer account read “@hamasinfo’s account has been withheld in Israel in response to a legal demand.”

It can be accessed outside of Israel, however, where it contains a warning reading “Caution: This profile may include potentially sensitive content.”

In March, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked claimed that groups like Hamas and Hezbollah “have switched to operating on Twitter instead of Facebook.” Shaked said that the reason is "the fruitful cooperation between Israel and Facebook, compared to the lack of cooperation by Twitter.” 

Facebook closed the official handle of Palestinian news agency Safa in March and had previously closed hundreds of Palestinian accounts.  

The Israeli government submitted the "Facebook Law" in January, which has so far passed the first of three required parliamentary votes. The bill allows the government to ask the courts to order the removal of content that meets the definition of illegal material and poses a real danger to individuals or the state. But it also creates an option for securing an ex parte ruling to remove content in a fast-track process that doesn’t comply with standard rules of evidence. This provision has been harshly criticized, given its possible implications for freedom of expression.