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Can Twitter be ordered to turn off terrorists accounts? Twitter finds itself in middle of free speech battles

December 29, 2011

When I wrote about the US military and the Taliban engaging each other via Twitter I heard comments that Twitter ought to be compelled to turn off the Taliban’s accounts.

Now Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law center, is threatening to sue Twitter unless the social network cuts off access to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.

Msnbc’s Suzanne Choney, reports the center’s attorney and executive director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, wrote Twitter:

…[I]t has come to our attention that Twitter, Inc. provides social media and associated services to such groups as Hezbollah and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab — labeled as “foreign terrorist organizations” (or FTOs) by the United States.

Please be advised that providing social media and other associated services to terrorist groups is illegal and will expose Twitter, Inc. and its officers to both criminal prosecution and civil liability to American citizens and others victimized by terrorisms carried out by Hezbollah, Al-Shabaab or other FTOs.

Citing a 2010 Supreme Court case declaring it unlawful to assist or support terrorist organizations, Darshan-Leitner demanded that Twitter discontinue service to the terrorist groups or the law center would “…[S]eek all available relief and remedies against Twitter, Inc. in all relevant jurisdictions.”

Twitter which has a history of favoring free speech did not comment.

When you are a U.S. company in the business of facilitating free speech, you’re going to find yourself in plenty of legal disputes.

Free speech has its limits in the U.S. “You cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre.” And Twitter may find itself subject to the jurisdiction of other countries whose laws are not near as pro free speech.

It ought to be an interesting legal road ahead for Twitter.

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