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Twitter acts to block groups linked to Hamas, Hezbollah after lawmakers launch protest

By JONATHAN D. SALANT | NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J. | Published: November 4, 2019

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Twitter has started blocking all accounts linked to Hamas and Hezbollah, two Islamist groups that the U.S. State Department classifies as terrorist organizations, according to one of the lawmakers who demanded that the platform stop them from tweeting.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., said Monday that accounts liked to the two organizations had been suspended, and a Twitter official said the site was continuing to review others.

“With these first steps, Twitter is now taking measures to address the militant jihadist organizations on their platform,” Gottheimer said. “This is a big day in the fight against the global war on terror.”

Gottheimer, joined by Reps. Max Rose, D-N.Y., Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., had called on Twitter last month to suspend the accounts, objecting to the platform continuing to allow the political wings of terrorist groups to tweet.

Carlos Monje Jr., Twitter’s director of public policy and philanthropy for the U.S. and Canada, told the lawmakers in a letter Friday that the company would “remove or terminate all accounts it identifies as owned or operated by, or directly affiliated with, any designated foreign terrorist organization."

He said Twitter would be reviewing other accounts identified by the lawmakers.

Twitter already has suspended the English and Arabic language accounts of Hamas and the English and Arabic language accounts of Hezbollah’s and Hamas’ TV channel and news services, Gottheimer said.

“There is simply no reason why terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, who have killed countless Americans and our allies, deserve access to U.S.-based social media platforms to promote themselves as sponsors of violent, radical, hate-filled extremism," Gottheimer said.

After Gottheimer raised the issue in September, Monje said that Twitter drew “a distinction” between the groups’ military and political wings. Hamas members were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council and Hezbollah representatives sit in the Lebanese parliament.

Gottheimer and the other lawmakers called it a distinction without a difference, charging Twitter in a letter last month with "refusing to take adequate action to stop the spread of terror.”

It is illegal for Americans to provide “material support or resources” to designated terror organizations.

jsalant@njadvancemedia.com

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