Twitter Acts as ‘Extension of US Government’ by Closing Pages Ostensibly Linked to Hamas, Hezbollah

Twitter on Saturday suspended the accounts of several Palestinian and Lebanese news outlets, including Quds News Network, Asra News, Al Manar News and Al Ahed News, claiming they are linked to Lebanese political party and militant organization Hezbollah and Palestinian militant organization Hamas.

However, Twitter’s move is unsurprising according to Ben Norton, a journalist with the Grayzone and co-host of the Moderate Rebels podcast, who told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear Tuesday that tech giants like Twitter act as an “arm” for US government foreign policy.

Many corporate media headlines are noting the fact Twitter has banned Hamas and Hezbollah with the insinuation that they are terrorist organizations, host Brian Becker noted - an attitude that aligns with the US State Department’s designation of both groups as such.

“Well, clearly when they say terrorist they mean anyone who is challenging total US hegemony,” Norton told Becker and co-host John Kiriakou, “because there are people who absolutely meet the definition of terrorist who not only use Twitter but are running multiple governments. Saudi Arabia is a great example of this.”

“I mean, not even to mention the fact that under any consistent definition of terrorism, the US government is responsible for terrorism. You know, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, frequently talks about what he calls financial terrorism: sanctions and collective punishment of civilian populations being a form of financial terrorism. Even military terrorism.”

“Let’s talk about another major US ally: Saudi Arabia. We have so much evidence showing that Saudi Arabia has supported ISIS [Daesh], Saudi Arabia has supported al-Qaeda, and Saudi Arabia was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and yet you have all these verified Saudi regime officials who use Twitter,” the journalist noted.

In a recent statement, Quds News Network said that “Placing restrictions on, deleting and blocking accounts is a demonstration of clear bias against Palestinian media and an attack on it,” the Times of Israel reported. 

Meanwhile, the banning of the accounts was praised by Israel Defense Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who tweeted Sunday, “Internationally recognized terror groups should never have a platform for their violent extremism.”

​“In fact, a major Saudi oligarch, Prince [Al-Waleed] Bin Talal, actually, is a partial stakeholder; he owns a significant number of shares in Twitter. Anyone who uses Twitter or talks about Middle Eastern issues knows that there are thousands and thousands of Saudi regime Twitter trolls and bots who attack anyone who criticizes the Saudi war on Yemen and other issues. The double standard could not be any clearer,” Norton noted.

“This is not to mention the fact that, of course, the US terrorism list included figures like Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader, until 2008 … What really is happening is that Twitter is once again is showing us that it acts like an arm for US government foreign policy,” he explained.

“We see this happen recently when the US designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the Iranian military, a so-called terrorist group, and immediately Twitter responded by banning Iranian government accounts. So there’s a long history of this, and once again we should stress the fact that Twitter is silencing the speech, the internationally protected speech of many different political actors solely because the US government is targeting them for overthrow, defeat, sabotage. Twitter is acting really as a lapdog for the US State Department just like Facebook and other big tech companies,” Norton continued.

Bns by tech companies don’t just occur on social media platforms, either. In April, Google blocked access to PressTV and HispanTV’s YouTube and Gmail accounts without any warning, despite the Iranian media outlets stating that they had not violated any of Google’s policies, demonstrating how the US holds decisive influence in dictating what accounts can remain online and which cannot.

“Let’s say China, Russia, Iran, all the ‘evil’ official enemies of the US government decided that they are going to designate the US military as a terrorist organization for using terrorist weapons in Iraq or for murdering civilians in Afghanistan. Do you think these big tech companies would immediately respond by banning US government accounts and US media accounts? The double standard is so blatant,” Norton explained.

“If you look at Hezbollah, Hezbollah is a legal party that is democratically elected in Lebanon, and its political arm is part of a government coalition of the Lebanese democratic government. Similarly, regardless of what you think about Hamas - I'm certainly not a fan of the political group - but it’s a democratically elected organization in Gaza,” he noted. 

“So Twitter is now saying, ‘Yes, we are going to act as essentially an extension of the US government. We are going to abide by these rules mandated by Congress that we act as international arbiters of speech on behalf of the US.’ The idea that they are some independent company that have their own rules is ridiculous. If they don’t abide by the policies that Congress wants, Congress will go back and pressure them and force them and also threaten them with regulation. The other elephant in the room is that these companies are not really regulated in any way, and what they fear is that if they don’t go along with what the US government wants them to do, then they actually could face some kind of economic regulation,” Norton explained.

“So, the strategy is, they say, “OK, we have to censor extremist content on our platforms.’ And of course, who are the people who decide extremism means? … If you’re a socialist, if you’re anti-capitalism, if you’re against war and imperialism, you’re a left-wing extremist. There’s this attempt to conflate actual right-wing extremists with people who are on the left, because the so-called mainstream left, the Democratic Party, is actually right-wing in the rest of the world,” Norton noted.

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