Congress, Twitter clash over Taliban posts

Nov. 24, 2011 at 9:46 AM   |   0 comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The online social media site Twitter is resisting calls from U.S. congressional members to stop hosting pro-Taliban posts hailing attacks on coalition troops.

Twitter executives told lawmakers the posts don't violate the site's terms of service because the Taliban is not listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. Such a designation would make it illegal to provide "material support or resources" to the militant group.

The effort to remove the pro-Taliban Twitter feeds is part of a larger effort by Sen. Joe Lieberman, Ind-Conn., Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman, to convince Internet companies to remove videos and blogs he contends promote terrorism or provide instructions for committing violence.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan, is also countering the pro-Taliban postings, the Times said. The ISAF this year began countering the pro-Taliban messages with postings debunking insurgent claims.

U.S. intelligence agencies have been known to track suspect Internet posters to help identify Taliban fighters or terrorist operatives.

Some legal experts told the Times the pro-Taliban messages are protected under U.S. law.

"The Taliban feeds, although they use incendiary language, are essentially a news feed of attacks" that don't violate free speech, said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University.

Rosen said Twitter could "only ban feeds that post specific and immediate threats of violence."

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