Twitter, the Taliban, and Anti-Israel Hypocrisy
Social media giant Twitter has made what can only be described as a controversial decision. As armed militants rampaged across Afghanistan — and the United States scrambled to evacuate thousands from the capital city Kabul — the platform was asked: Will you remove official Taliban-linked accounts?
After all, the radical Islamist group has used its 280 character-limit tweets to boast about “conquering” their enemies, and to organize its violent takeover of the landlocked country.
In response, a spokesman for Twitter released a statement that simply said that the company would continue to enforce rules against the “glorification of violence, platform manipulation and spam.”
“Twitter’s top priority is keeping people safe, and we remain vigilant,” it added.
But is the Silicon Valley firm really that committed to preventing extremists from spreading harmful propaganda?
An analysis of the platform shows that all manner of high-profile terrorist organizations use Twitter to encourage the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel.
For example, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has used his verified account to illuminate his ideas on how Israel can be “eliminated,” while also spreading the conspiracy that “Zionists” murdered former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In 2014, Khamenei suggested that a “Zionist network” controls the United States, and also claimed that year that the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, was caused by the “domination of Israel.” He has also denied the Holocaust.
It would seem that spreading antisemitic conspiracies and calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state does not violate Twitter’s terms of service.
Hamas terrorists can also rely on getting their message out to the masses with a helping hand from Twitter. The Gaza-based US-designated terrorist organization has made no secret that its ultimate goal is to “cleanse Palestine” of the “cancer [of] Jews.”
The group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh has posted on Twitter to celebrate rocket attacks that have killed Israeli civilians, while Hamas-affiliated accounts have praised terrorist atrocities, including a 2016 Tel Aviv shooting attack.
In addition, Iranian-backed and Lebanon-based Hezbollah has a habit of inciting violence against Israelis via Twitter. Its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has used his account to call for the “death” of the Jewish state.
Death to the arrogant ,the oppressors , the occupiers ,death to the murderous criminals ,death to israel .
Never shall i we be disagraeed !!
— Hassan Nasrallah (@SayedNasrallah) November 14, 2012
Again, such tweets are still live on Twitter’s server and available for all to see.
In fact, when the platform has taken action to remove genocidal tweets, it has usually been in response to significant pressure from lawmakers. This was the case with ISIS-supporting accounts that were disseminating slickly produced propaganda videos featuring gruesome executions of hostages, and calls to recruit more jihadists.
In February 2016, Twitter revealed it had suspended 125,000 ISIS-related profiles over the course of the previous seven months. But this only came after the White House had urged the platform to do more to combat the proliferation of such material.
Then-director of the FBI James Comey even warned that Twitter was being used to “crowdsource terrorism” and “sell murder.”
HonestReporting has previously drawn attention to antisemitic hatred on the platform, including a BBC journalist who tweeted her belief that “#HitlerWasRight,” and a widely-published Palestinian journalist who claimed that Israel was “beating Hitler at his own game.”
While both of these people deleted the comments after a swift backlash, it seems neither was flagged by Twitter’s algorithm at the time.
The public may be astonished at Twitter’s latest inaction over the Taliban live-tweeting its Afghan takeover, but due to its past policy on Palestinian and anti-Israel terrorism, this was only to be expected.
The writer is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, where a version of this article first appeared.