Twitter Terrorism: Hizballah Averages 250 Tweets Per Day

By Melanie Arter | August 2, 2012 | 5:06pm EDT

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas).( Starr)


( - Based on information gathered by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said in a congressional hearing on Thursday that Hizballah has averaged 250 tweets per day since it opened a Twitter account in November.

“Hizbullah began tweeting on November 16, 2011," MEMRI reported on July 27. "As of this writing, it has posted 50,942 tweets--that is, an average of about 250 per day--and has 16,932 followers. The tweets are in Arabic, French, and English.”

Hizballah is listed by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“There is a reason why Hezbollah tweeted an average of about 250 tweets a day since it opened its account in November. Twitter is a great way to spread propaganda and get new recruits and promote crimes against Americans,” Poe said, during the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

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Twitter suspended a reporter’s account after NBC complained, but Twitter has yet to “shut down or suspend a single account” used by terrorists, Poe said.

On Friday, Guy Adams, a correspondent for the London-based The Independent, vented his frustration over NBC delaying the airing of the Olympics’ opening ceremony to coincide with U.S. prime-time television. Adams tweeted the email address of NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel.

“NBC complained to Twitter, and by Sunday, Twitter had shut down the journalist account. Twitter wouldn’t restore that account for two days, but when it comes to a terrorist using Twitter, Twitter has not shut down or suspended a single account,” Poe said.

Twitter’s terms of policy says any “person barred from receiving services under the laws of the U.S. may not hold a Twitter account,” Poe said. “Terrorist organizations using Twitter--to me--is a violation of U.S. law.”

Poe referenced Section 219 of the Immigration Nationality Act, which says it is “unlawful to provide a designated FTO with ‘material-supported resources including any property – tangible or intangible – or services - among those communication equipment and facilities.’”

“Terrorists are using Twitter. Twitter is a communication service. It seems like it’s a violation of the law,” he said.

In 2009 and 2011, Hamas and Hizballah, respectively, started tweeting, Poe said.

“The Taliban, which the U.S. government held accountable for the attacks of 9/11 has two official Twitter accounts. Aug. 8, 2011, the Taliban tweeted: ‘Four American cowards killed, six wounded in battle. Two tanks destroyed,’” Poe said.

“Twitter says it can’t verify these accounts are really used by terrorist groups or someone claiming to be these groups, so Twitter relies on the United States government to verify accounts. Twitter says it will comply if the government asks them to shut down an account,” Poe added.

“To my knowledge, not one terrorist Twitter account has ever been shut down by our government, and I want you to correct me if I’m wrong on that,” Poe told Alberto Fernandez, coordinator of the State Department's Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, who testified at the hearing.

“My question is--and NBC was able to get the Twitter folks to close it down because some civilian complained about their news service or about the Olympics, not saying that’s right or wrong, but that did occur. So my question really is, can you describe the terrorists’ use of Twitter and what we are actively doing about it?” Poe asked Fernandez.

Terrorists using Twitter is “mostly a law enforcement question, and so it’s not my area of responsibility in the sense that we’re dealing with communications,” Fernandez replied, saying that his area of communications expertise is foreign languages overseas.

Poe asked Fernandez if the State Department has a policy regarding foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) using Twitter.

“Twitter obviously is an American entity, and so it’s all our responsibility, but as I said, since we’re focused overseas in foreign languages and not in English, and not in something like Twitter, which is very narrowly defined, that’s not an area where we work on a regular basis. Al Qaeda doesn’t use Twitter,” Fernandez replied.

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