Beak wide shut: No freedom of tweet for Taliban?

Reuters / Reuters TV
A US senator is pressuring Twitter to block the accounts of Taliban supporters. The micro-blogging service is reported to be resisting the attack on online freedom of speech, saying the tweets are news feeds, not pro-terrorist propaganda.

­Twitter is the latest target for Joe Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in his wide campaign to eliminate what he calls terrorist propaganda from the Internet.

The feeds the senator wants gagged are used by the Taliban to boast about their attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan or to post links to their statements, according to The Telegraph. Some of them have several thousand followers and the information given ranges from obviously fabricated stories to accurate and up-to-minute news.

Naturally, the Tweets brand the coalition forces as “cowards” and “occupiers” while Taliban militants are “heroes” and “martyrs”.

Occasionally, Twitter account users clash with press services of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, challenging and rebuffing each other’s statements.

Lieberman’s attack on the Taliban’s Twitter feed follows an earlier move to have Google remove pro-Al-Qaeda videos from YouTube. The company partially met the demand, removing content which did not comply with the site’s terms of use. That has mostly consisted of open calls for violence and terrorism, says Jeffrey Rosen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine and The New Republic.

"Twitter's even more pro-free-speech than Google – it doesn't have a terrorism exception; it will only remove content that is illegal or promotes violence. And since they concluded that these tweets were pro-Taliban newsfeeds that didn't promote imminent violence, they refused to remove them," Rosen said in an interview.

The Telegraph adds that Twitter cites the fact that the Taliban is not on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations as a reason why the demand to block it from the service should not be met.