An Israeli law center, Shurat HaDin, is threatening to sue Twitter unless it shuts down an account that the center says belongs to Hezbollah. The center describes itself this way:
Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center is an Israeli based civil right organization and world leader in combating the terrorist organizations and the regimes that support them through lawsuits litigated in courtrooms around the world. Fighting for the rights of hundreds of terror victims, Shurat HaDin seeks to bankrupt the terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt – one lawsuit at a time.
To translate that, the center puts pressure on its targets by threatening litigation, a sort of alternative judicial-ish activism. MSNBC is reporting that Shurat HaDin sent a letter to Twitter doing exactly that in regards to the almanarnews feed. Al Manar News is a website (click here to see it) that has an anti-American, anti-Israeli bent. Shurat HaDin says Al Manar is the news arms of Hezbollah. There’s nothing on the site to indicate that’s the case precisely, but the news org certainly does feature plenty of sympathetic reporting about Hezbollah as well as news releases from Hezbollah’s Media Relations crew.
The Al Manar Twitter feed has headlines from the main site and retweets in Arabic as well. Here’s what it looks like:
According to MSNBC, the letter from ShuratHaDin to Twitter reads:
“Please be advised that providing social media and other associated services to terrorist groups is illegal and will expose Twitter, Inc. and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized by terrorisms carried out by Hezbollah, Al-Shabaab or other FTOs.”
The law center, which has a New York office, wants Twitter to “immediately provide us written confirmation” that it will “permanently” discontinue access to Hezbollah, “Al-Manar TV, Al-Shabaab and any other FTOs … Absent such confirmation, we will seek all available relief and remedies against Twitter, Inc. in all relevant jurisdictions.”
A spokesman for Twitter said the company does not have any comment about the potential lawsuit or the issue of allowing access to the groups. But it has long made a point of saying it does not take political sides, and favors free speech.
Frankly, I can’t believe the chutzpah of Shurat HaDin. If Twitter is violating a law by permitting Al Manar to tweet so boringly, it should comply with a U.S. Court Order, not with an independent agency or pressure group. If the Justice Department calls Twitter–as it certainly has before–then they have a legal battle on their hands. Otherwise, this is just a lot of hot air.
And Shurat HaDin should consider that it does their cause more harm than good to censor Al Manar. I’d rather their tweeting be public, hiding in plain sight, and I’ll bet law enforcement feels the same way.