Social media have revolutionized communications by empowering millions of citizens to leap over traditional barriers and enter the public policy debate. But even in the brave new world of social media, there are still limits to who gets to speak and what they get to say.
Some of these limits are a matter of basic morality. And some are a matter of federal law.
Unfortunately, Twitter is brazenly disregarding these limits.
Twitter must certainly recognize that not everyone is entitled to the privilege of a Twitter account. If a Mexican drug cartel used the site to brag about its latest mass beheadings, I suspect that Twitter would shut them down. And if a pedophile took to Twitter to describe his latest conquests, I’d pray that Twitter would stop him cold.
So why is Twitter allowing a terrorist group with American blood on its hands to operate freely on its service?
During the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, it came to light that the military wing of Hamas — the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades — was operating a twitter account (@AlqassamBrigade).
These terrorists used this service to threaten Israeli civilians and brag about the missiles they fire at Israeli population centers.
More than 30,000 members of Christians United for Israel have emailed Twitter, asking it to ban Hamas. But Hamas tweets on.
Let me be clear. The account we are seeking to take down is not one operated by law-abiding citizens who sympathize with Hamas. Such independent advocacy is clearly and completely protected by the First Amendment. What we are talking about here is a page run by the terrorists themselves.
If shame is not sufficient to change Twitter’s behavior, then hopefully the law is. The fact is that allowing Hamas or any affiliated entity to operate a Twitter account is a violation of federal law.
The United States government has designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Under 18 U.S.C. 2339A, it is illegal for any U.S. company to provide “material support” to such an organization. This prohibited material support specifically includes “services” and “communications equipment.”
By allowing Hamas to have an account, Twitter is providing it with an important “service” and extremely effective “communications equipment,” which are central to its primary mission of terrorizing the Israeli people and using civilian deaths to score political points.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.