By Itsik Saban and Yisrael Hayom Staff
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday called on Twitter to remove accounts that are clearly linked to terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah, or face potential legal action.
“As I believe you are aware, terrorist organizations have been expanding their use of social networks to radicalize, recruit, incite and spread propaganda. As Israel’s public security minister, I have seen directly the way that incitement spread through social media has inspired murderous ‘lone-wolf’ terrorist attacks,” Erdan wrote in a letter to the social media giant’s CEO Jack Dorsey and to Executive Chairman Omid Kordestani.
In the letter, Erdan noted that unlike other social media platform, Twitter has consistently refused Israeli authorities’ requests to remove content posted by terrorist groups or block accounts that feature support of or incitement to terrorism.
He demanded that Dorsey and Kordestani “immediately shut down the Twitter accounts of designated terrorist organizations responsible for the murder of thousands, namely accounts belonging to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
“Enabling terrorist organizations to operate freely and spread their messages via your platform may be a violation of existing Israeli law on supporting terrorist organizations. In addition, Israel, like numerous other countries, is currently promoting legislation that will place penalties on internet companies that do not comply with requests from law-enforcement and judicial bodies to remove terrorist content.
“I have been informed by the Israel Police and the Justice Ministry that Twitter, unlike other social media companies, has largely been irresponsive to requests by the Israeli authorities to remove terrorist content and shut down terrorist accounts,” the letter continued.
“As a result, terrorist organizations have been increasing their use of Twitter as a preferred means of spreading their propaganda, as they are able to operate openly with little to no interference. As just one example, Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, has operated an official English-language Twitter account since March 2015.
“I am certain that you do not wish to be responsible for supporting and enabling terrorist organizations that are actively engaged in inciting and executing attacks against innocent civilians. I therefore demand that you immediately shut down accounts affiliated with these terrorist organizations, their leaders and spokespeople; remove such content from your network, and prevent these organizations from opening accounts under any other name in the future,” wrote Erdan.
Failure to do so, he warned, “may see us pursue legal and criminal proceedings against Twitter under bills currently in their advanced legislative stages, which will hold Internet companies liable for terrorist content on their platforms, as well as under existing Israeli anti-terror laws.”
Erdan also included a partial list in his letter, detailing some 20 Twitter accounts affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
“It’s time for the social media giants to take responsibility for the content they distribute,” Erdan told Israel Hayom.
“It is unthinkable that organizations calling for the murder of Jews and Israelis would be allowed to openly manage Twitter accounts,” he said. “The fight against online incitement in Israel has proven to be an important tool in curbing suicide terrorism. If companies like Twitter don’t meet our demand, we may pursue criminal action against them. I call on other countries to join our demand and stop the spread of incitement through social media.”