An Evangelical group is calling for the United States government to ban Hamas from Twitter, claiming that allowing them access violates the law against material support of terrorist groups. Whether or not they’re technically correct, government intervention in access to social media is never a good idea.
David Cole, a Georgetown Law professor wrote an article for The Daily Beast in which he argues that the group, Christians United For Israel (CUFI) may technically be right that the Twitter account of Hamas’ military wing, Al Qassam Brigades violates the “material support” law, but that the vagueness of the law is the problem, not the Twitter account.
“The ‘material support’ law is written so broadly that it makes virtually anything one does to or for a designated group a crime, even if it has no link to terrorist activity of any kind,” he wrote.
Why stop at Twitter? What about Google, Facebook, or Verizon, all of which have almost certainly provided their ‘services,’ in the form of Google searches, social networking, and phone and email access, to Hamas or its members. For that matter, what about Pepsi and Coca-Cola, who have surely sold soda bottles to Hamas in the Gaza Strip? What about Exxon Mobil and Shell Oil, whose gas has very likely powered Hamas vehicles? And what about public radio and CNN, whose news services are available around the world, including in Gaza?
Cole makes a good point about applying the law to such indirect support, but the issue is complicated even further by the lack of clarity in the dispute between Israel and Hamas. To say there was a lack of consensus as to who’s the bad guy in the ongoing struggle would be a massive understatement, so for Twitter to ban one side and not the other would be taking a far more political stand than the social site, known for providing a voice to anyone and everyone, is likely to want to take.
"When it comes to Israel's military campaign, there is little that we here in America can do to help. But when it comes to this second conflict — the so-called 'Twitter war' — there is something important we can do." Pastor John Hagee and CUFI executive director David Brog wrote in an email to members of their group, The Weekly Standard reported.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that America has been quite active in supporting Israel’s military campaign, this call to action takes for granted that Twitter would want to support Israel. Twitter itself is neutral, a platform for debate and information. If governments start deciding who is and is not allowed on Twitter, it will lose its value as a tool for people to inform each other, rather than relying on governments or news organizations. Imagine how different the Arab Spring would have been if the governments of Tunisia and Egypt had been able to dictate access to social media.
If CUFI want to support Israel, that’s their right. There are plenty of ways for them to do so without pushing for censorship and perversion of the system of free communication.