A fortnight after terrorist organisation Hamas posted an image depicting Israel as Nazis, the photograph remains on the micro-blogging platform despite contravening a number of its own rules.
It was Saturday 23rd December when the Hamas Movement tweeted to their 74,000 followers: “The new flag for Israeli Occupation in Palestine” alongside a photo of the Israeli flag transformed into a Nazi swastika.
International lawyer and political analyst Arsen Ostrovsky immediately called out Twitter for not removing the image, saying “…please do explain how you still allow the @HamasInfoEn account to operate in contravention of all your rules?” which was then followed by Canada’s ambassador to Norway Artur Wilczynski labelling the incident “truly despicable”.
But two weeks on, and despite numerous users reporting the tweet, the social media giant has so far refused to remove the photograph. Instead they have chosen to reply to people with its standard response of “we have reviewed your report carefully and found that there was no violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behaviour.” This decision squarely contradicts the internationally adopted definition of anti-Semitism which cites “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” among its 11 examples of anti-Jew hate in public life.
The controversy raises fresh question marks over the legitimacy of Twitter’s new crackdown on ‘hate speech’ and ‘abuse’ and whether the guidelines only apply to conservative voices.
Indeed there are huge question marks over whether Hamas should even be allowed on the social media platform, given the Islamist militants are classified as a terrorist organisation in Britain, the European Union, US and Israel. Twitter Rules clearly state that violent extremist groups must meet criteria including to “identify through their stated purpose publications, or actions, as an extremist group”, “have engaged in, or currently engage in, violence (and/or the promotion of violence) as a means to further their cause” and “target civilians in their acts (and/or promotion) of violence” – which the Palestinian group meet on and off the platform.
Then, looking at the tweet itself, Twitter states it prohibits behaviour when it crosses the line and “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice” and that hateful conduct is defined as such when it “promotes violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of national origin”. How, as an Israeli citizen on Twitter, you could fail to be intimidated by a terrorist organisation suggesting your country of birth is a Nazi state goes beyond all rational thinking.
In addition, under a new ‘hateful imagery and display names’ policy introduced on December 18, Twitter specifically states “you may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header” and has permanently suspended many ‘far-right’ accounts as a result of this specific crackdown. Again, it raises the question, how can hateful imagery be allowed in the body of a tweet (and amplified by tens of thousands of followers) if it is not acceptable as a display picture?
German-born Marvin Quinn, now living in New York City, tweeted: “And where are the Twitter censors? Are they leftist liberals as well? This is hate speech and Nazi glorification.”
And Nigerian motivational speaker Emmanuel Anene joined the condemnation by stating: “(This is) highly targeted to a race and threatening violence. Twitter will never be quick to take down such accounts, really sad.”
The incident and Twitter’s lack of appropriate action has already prompted fears that Jewish people may now leave the social media site as a result. Los Angeles’ Rabbi Yonah tweeted “I’m so close to leaving” following the anti-Semitic slur.
Shy Society contacted Twitter and put the allegations to them but were yet to receive a response at the time of publication. The platform has previously said they don’t respond to individual cases due to matters of privacy.
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