Twitter shuts account of Hamas spokesman; he opens new one
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Twitter shuts account of Hamas spokesman; he opens new one

Social media giant failing to cope with terror groups’ use of its platform

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Abu Ubeida (right), the official spokesperson of the Palestinian militant group Izz ad-Din al-Qassam  Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, at a press conference on July 3, 2014, in Gaza City (photo credit: AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Abu Ubeida (right), the official spokesperson of the Palestinian militant group Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, at a press conference on July 3, 2014, in Gaza City (photo credit: AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Twitter shut down another account linked to Hamas in recent days, this time belonging to the spokesman of the terror group’s military wing.

The move followed a series of closures of Hamas accounts since last month, as the company took unprecedented step to remove the Palestinian group’s influence on its medium.

The spokesman, known as Abu Obeida, whose account was shut on Friday, promptly opened a new account on Saturday, underscoring the problem the social media site faces when monitoring pages belonging to terrorists and terrorist groups.

Twitter has been making efforts over the last two years to prevent terror organizations from spreading their messages through the service, but has come under fire for its inability to prevent users, most notably those linked to the Islamic State, from simply opening new accounts.

Twitter closed all the official accounts of Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Arabic, Hebrew and English in a series of steps during March, but had left Abu Obeida’s untouched.

The Qassam Brigades spokesperson, with 196,000 followers, continued to use his account to direct readers to a new official Arabic page for the group, which was opened the same day Twitter closed the old account in March.

In the new Twitter account opened by Abu Obeida on Saturday, he wrote that by closing his old account, “Twitter yielded to the pressure of the enemy, which gives us an impression that is not neutral in regards to the Palestinian case and it caves into political pressure.”

The Qassam Brigades spokesperson added that despite the recent closures, his group would not cease to operate across social media.

“We are going to send our message in a lot of innovative ways, and we will insist on every available means of social media to get to the hearts and minds of millions,” he wrote on Twitter.

On Saturday, Abu Obeida also opened up an official account on Facebook.

The new Arabic account of the Qassam Brigades, with a Eqbpress handle, remains online, as does the English-language account. A new Hebrew-language account was not launched.

This reporter has been blocked from viewing the tweets from the Arabic account, though it remains open to others.

The terror group’s page is used to publish internal news about the organization, such as when its members died in training accidents, and also to call for and praise attacks against Israeli civilians.

Twitter has operated against Hamas’ military wing in the past, shutting down all accounts associated with the group during the 52-day war between Hamas and Israel in the summer of 2014.

However, almost immediately, the Qassam Brigades began operating new accounts.

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