Section 219 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act states that it is unlawful to provide a designated “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO) with “material support or resources,” including “any property, tangible or intangible, or services” — among them “communication equipment and facilities.”
To put it another way, if you see Hezbollah tweeting on Twitter, friending on Facebook or embedding videos on YouTube, you shouldn’t.
It’s a good law. Until recently, though, some social networking sites have routinely violated it.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hezbollah has made “extensive use of U.S. social media — Apple iTunes, iPad and iPhone, Google, Android, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter — in violation of U.S. law.”
MEMRI is a widely respected organization that monitors and reports on the region’s media, frequently bridging the language gap that exists between the West and the Middle East. It published its findings in a July 27 report. The reaction to its findings was swift and satisfying.
According to MEMRI, Hezbollah’s Facebook pages were deleted, its app for the Apple iPhone and iPad Apple was removed from iTunes, and its Android app was removed from Google Play.
Yet despite MEMRI’s findings, it says both Twitter and YouTube are continuing to violate the law.
“Despite MEMRI’s repeated notification of Twitter that they are hosting multiple active Hezbollah accounts, in violation of U.S. law, no response has been received,” according to a statement from the institute. “MEMRI has also flagged Hezbollah videos on YouTube, and notified them by letter, yet those videos and the Hezbollah pages are still active. Both Twitter and YouTube are continuing to violate U.S. law.”
The Chronicle sent its own inquiries to media representatives of both companies; neither has responded.
This much we do know: If you do a search for Hezbollah on YouTube you will find a variety of videos, mostly news agencies reporting on Hezbollah activities, including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s interview with Hezbollah Leader Sayyid Nasrallah. We may not like what they report — and we don’t — but that still strikes us as a legitimate use of the site.
What’s not so legitimate are propaganda videos like one we came across painting photos of Israeli soldiers and political leaders in red (blood), and showing smiling faces of Nasrallah while Arabic music plays in the background.
On Twitter, a site that proved its worth during Iran’s Green Revolution by giving dissidents a means to communicate when the regime was shutting down all others, Hezbollah began tweeting Nov. 16, 2011, according MEMRI and now tweets 250 times per day on average. It has nearly 17,000 followers using Al-Manar TV, the Lebanese satellite television network run by Hezbollah.
Al-Manar also has videos on YouTube.
The Israel Law Center has threatened a lawsuit against Twitter, according to media reports. We don’t know if that will actually happen, but the law should be enforced, and media outlets — be they broadcast or Internet-based — should comply. No one should turn a blind eye to terrorist activity on the Internet. This is the funnel through which terrorists organization have recruited new members to their causes. To ignore it is a recipe for disaster.