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August 6, 2019 4:45 am

Hamas Just Violated Twitter’s Rules. Now What?

avatar by Simon Butler

Opinion

Hamas fighters take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of the terror group’s founding, in Gaza City, Dec. 16, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

I recently received an intriguing notification from Twitter about a number of accounts that I had reported to the platform for antisemitic hate speech and other wrongdoings.

The message listed the handles that Twitter found in violation of its policies. Among them was @HamasInfoEn, which carried the name “Hamas Movement.”

That’s right. Hamas Movement — aka Hamas. The terrorist group that threatens Israel on a regular basis. The account calls itself an “official account.”

The Twitter notification sent to me points out that the group violated its “rules against hateful conduct.” Given that Hamas has directed thousands of Palestinians to riot on the Israeli border, murdered many innocent Israeli civilians, and launched innumerable rockets toward the Jewish state, “hateful conduct” may be the least of its offenses.

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But Twitter’s finding brings up some major questions: Does this mean the platform will suspend and/or deactivate the @HamasInfoEn account — and why, for that matter, is Hamas allowed to have a Twitter account in the first place?

The fact that Twitter acknowledged the problems with the Hamas account indicates its efforts to address hateful content — antisemitic and otherwise. Yet the idea of an organization dedicated to the destruction of a country (which Hamas is) operating openly on social media is troubling.

Did Twitter vet the account when it joined? And when you consider that Hamas is deemed a terrorist organization in the United States, and Twitter is an American company, the mind boggles further. Why is it even legal to be on the platform?

Then there’s the question of monitoring. Lets’s say this Hamas account is deactivated. Is that better or worse for the world overall?

Some publications, such as The Jerusalem Post, follow @HamasInfoEn — presumably to see what it is saying. It’s likely that the account is being scrutinized by intelligence organizations as well to determine what Hamas is up to. So this brings up the additional dilemma of whether it’s better for hateful content to be out in the open, or whether it should be shut down.

I’m of the opinion that it’s better to suspend such accounts, even if they’re observed by powers beyond my ken. My feeling, however, is that the @HamasInfoEn account will stay on Twitter for a while, though the site’s finding may set a precedent — that not all anti-Israel hate will be tolerated. Perhaps this might even lead to Twitter looking at Hamas’ account more carefully.

I hope that will happen. Meanwhile, I’m pleased that at least something was done. Whether more prominent bad online actors will be addressed accordingly, though, remains to be seen.

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. During his career, he has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek. Currently, he is a columnist for The Jewish Advocate. His views and opinions are his own.

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