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June 9, 2016

LA Times Editorial Board Criticizes EU Hate Speech Code of Conduct for Online Platforms

In response to a Code of Conduct adopted at the request of the European Commission by online companies Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board called the Code “a well-meaning but heavy-handed move against jihadist propaganda.”  The Editorial explained:

The code of conduct was presented as a set of voluntary commitments closely tracking what the four companies say they’ve been doing on their own initiatives. But it’s not as if they could have blithely refused to cooperate. Under European law, certain types of hate speech are illegal and must be removed on request. The commission also is a highly active regulator  — much more so than U.S. authorities are — having launched antitrust, tax and privacy enforcement actions against some or all of the four companies. In other words, they would have ignored the commission at their peril.

The LA Times Editorial Board itemized its concerns this way:

  • “The Commission’s move could lead the companies to censor legal speech as well. Rather than leaving companies to set their own terms of use, the code of conduct mandates that such rules “prohibit the promotion of incitement to violence and hateful conduct,” which is a vaguer and broader category than what European governments have outlawed.”
  • “It would fast-track the removal of content flagged by advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations blessed by European officials, leaving those whose posts are blocked online with no due-process rights (the companies say they have internal appeals processes, but that’s a far cry from the court-supervised process under U.S. copyright law).”
  • “The code could set a precedent for other countries to force Internet companies to restrain speech more than their laws dictate or global principles of human rights support. For example, what if a repressive regime demands that social networks adopt rules banning “incitement to instability” or other code words for dissent?”
  • “But just as the United States has struggled to find the right balance between security and civil liberties, so too must the commission be careful not to squelch legal speech. The new code of conduct may be well-meaning, but it would have been better to have a truly voluntary effort by social networks backed by real due-process protections.”

While Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO has stated that the Code parallels ADL’s Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate, and that empowering users to better report hate speech is the reason why ADL has brought it Cyber-Safety Action Guide to Europe, ADL acknowledges the concerns expressed by civil society and the Los Angeles Times, and continues to believe that voluntary efforts to combat online hate speech is preferable to government-imposed requirements.  ADL has committed to work with the European Jewish Congress and European Union of Jewish Students to expand ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide for use by European citizens in the wake of the EU Code announcement.

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May 20, 2016

ADL Alerts Service Providers to Hezbollah Presence on Their Platforms

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, speaking on al-Manar television

Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, speaking on al-Manar television

UPDATE: 5/20/16 – Facebook & Instagram have removed the accounts identified in this blog.

Al-Manar, the media wing of Hezbollah, has long broadcast terrorist propaganda disguised as news to the Arab speaking world. After being dropped by two of the largest satellite providers in the Arabic speaking world, ArabSat (which dropped the channel in December 2015) and NileSat (which dropped the channel in April 2016), Hezbollah is relying increasingly on online platforms to maintain its viewer base. As a result, removal of al-Manar presence from online platforms at this time has the potential to significantly disrupt the group’s reach and impact.

Al-Manar, designated by the U.S. State Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity, currently has official presence on a number of U.S.-based social media and web platforms, most of which are linked from al-Manar’s official website. ADL has alerted the companies to the group’s presence.

ADL regularly alerts Internet companies to terrorist exploitation of their services, and most companies quickly remove the content when alerted. We have informed the relevant companies of these examples of Hezbollah use of their platforms and anticipate that they will remove the content once again.

Twitter

Al-Manar has an official Twitter handle, @almanarnews, which can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The account appears to have been created in July 2010, and has upwards of 334,000 followers. According to the page description, “Al-Manar website News and programs. Al-Manar TV is considered the television of the Lebanese resistance against the Israeli occupation.” The description also includes a link to live streaming of al-Manar broadcasts on the al-Manar website.

Most of the Tweets on the al-Manar Twitter feed include statements promoting violence against the U.S., Israel, and other entities Hezbollah considers to be its enemies. It also features statements and speeches of Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah.

Specific examples of Tweets include one Tweet from May 18, 2016 that stated,“The American presence is an occupation that must be fought against,” one Tweet from October 8, 2015 with an image showing a stabbed Israeli civilian and a misleading caption that reads: “an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem;” and a link to an article that praises stabbing attacks against Israelis. Another Tweet from January 28, 2016 states, “The missiles of the Resistance (Hezbollah) disturb Washington…[because] Israel’s safety comes first [for the U.S.].

 

An al-Manar Tweet showing a stabbed Israeli civilian. The caption reads, "an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem"

An al-Manar Tweet showing a stabbed Israeli civilian. The caption reads, “an Israeli soldier stabbed in occupied Jerusalem”

Facebook

Al-Manar has an official Facebook page titled al-Manar Channel – the Official Page (in Arabic). The page can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website and has over 4,000 followers. The page displays al-Manar’s official log and posts news about Hezbollah and links to live streaming of al-Manar television.

As on the Twitter feed, most of the posts on the al-Manar Facebook page include statements promoting violence against the U.S., Israel, and other entities Hezbollah considers to be its enemies, as well as Islamic extremist views and statements and speeches by Hassan Nasrallah.

Specific examples of posts include a cartoon posted on May 18, 2016 depicting an American soldier supporting ISIS and a post encouraging stabbing terrorist attacks in Israel with an image of a knife covered with the Palestinian flag with the Arabic text stating, “stab it in the heart of your enemy.”

A cartoon posted on al-Manar's Facebook page depicting a U.S. soldier supporting ISIS.

A cartoon posted on al-Manar’s Facebook page depicting a U.S. soldier supporting ISIS.

One of the posts, also dated May 18, 2016, includes an admission of the group’s violation of Facebook’s terms of service. It reads, “To our honorable and beloved page visitors, no matter how many pages they shut down. We will always be the voice of resistance which doesn’t know defeat or submission.  We invite you, oh you who love resistance, resistance fighters, and the leader of the resistance to stand right in the face of falsehood to call upon relatives and friends to actively participate in this page, which thanks to God and thanks to your efforts you will continue and win.”

Instagram 

Al-Manar has an official Instagram page called almanarnews. The page has 873 followers and can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The page’s Arabic-language description states, “Al-Manar website News and programs,  al-Manar TV is considered the television of the Lebanese resistance against the  Israeli occupation.” The description also provides a link for users to “watch the TV channel broadcast.”

The Instagram page displays the official logo of al-Manar and links to live streaming of the terrorist entity’s TV broadcast.

YouTube

Al-Manar has an official YouTube page called Al Manar Channel 3. The page has 9,669 followers and can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The page description calls it, “The official page of the Lebanese Media Group al-Manar channel-Lebanon.”

The YouTube page displays the official logo of al-Manar and links to media materials produced by al-Manar. The channel also has a live stream of the al-Manar TV station and includes posts and videos featuring Hezbollah’s military operations.

WhatsApp

Al-Manar has an official WhatsApp service called Al-Manar channel WhatsApp service, which can be accessed via direct link from the al-Manar website. The al-Manar WhatsApp service page also links to other al-Manar social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The service provides subscription options for groups of five or more people, or for individuals.

The al-Manar WhatsApp service

The al-Manar WhatsApp service

ADL previously exposed Hezbollah use of WhatsApp in 2014, including attempts by the group to interest WorldCup supporters in its services via WhatsApp.

Telegram

Al-Manar has an official Telegram channel called almanarnews, which has 17,538 followers and is accessible via direct link from the al-Manar website. The channel description states that it is “The official account of al-Manar channel on Telegram” and provides a link for users to “watch the TV channel broadcast” on the al-Manar website.

The channel displays the official logo of al-Manar and links to posts and videos from the satellite station.

Posts on the channel include extensive news about terror attacks in Israel, including posts that read, “Occupied Palestine: The martyrdom of the one who executed the stabbing operation in Jerusalem,” and “The enemy’s media: an Israeli attacked in a stabbing operation in Israel.”

On May 20, AlManar also launched two additional Telegram channels, called Almanarnewsbot and Almanarnews_bot, presumably as backup channels in case their original channel is removed from the platform. They have already begun to post news from the Almanarnewsbot channel, but the Almanarnews_bot channel is inactive as of this posting.

Apps for mobile devices

In the past two weeks, ADL has discovered and alerted platforms to the development of new apps that enable al-Manar streaming for mobile phones. These included an app on iTunes, which iTunes has since removed, and an app on Google Play. Al-manar subsequently posted a statement on Twitter recommending that its Apple users use Telegram to get news and alerts, rather than iTunes. There is reason to assume that Hezbollah will continue attempting to create new apps, as it has done multiple times in the past.

Al-Manar's Tweet advising Apple users to switch to Telegram to receive news.

Al-Manar’s Tweet advising Apple users to switch to Telegram to receive news.

ADL has consistently documented Hezbollah’s creation of apps for mobile devices and alerted platforms to their existence each time. Information on each of these instances is available at the following links:

Hezbollah on Your IPhone: There’s an App for That (2012)

Hezbollah Re-Launches Apps; Blames ADL For Failure Of Previous Effort (2012)

Hezbollah Military Branch Offers Free Podcasts On iTunes (2013)

Hezbollah Is Still Trying To Broadcast Messages To Your Handheld (2014)

Hezbollah Android App Re-Launched For The Third Time (2014)

ADL also regularly monitors online presence and propaganda by other terrorist organizations, including Hamas, ISIS and al Qaeda.

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February 9, 2016

White Supremacist Messages Flood Facebook After Anti-Semitic Posting by Ted Nugent

Rock musician and right-wing activist Ted Nugent surprised many of his followers on February 8 when he posted to his Facebook page a blatantly anti-Semitic graphic that labeled a dozen prominent supporters of gun control measures as Jews and asked “So who is really behind gun control?”

Angelo John Gage

Angelo John Gage

The graphic was one that had circulated in white supremacist circles for several years before Nugent gave it new life, telling his followers to “Know these punks. They hate freedom, they hate good over evil…you know how evil they are.”

To their credit, a number of Nugent fans expressed dismay at his posting. One prophetic Nugent follower, a self-described 40-year fan, described the post as “appalling” and informed the aging rocker that he had just “opened the gates for hundreds of Jew haters and Holocaust deniers to pour out their garbage on your page.”

Sadly, that was exactly what happened. Predictably, white supremacists and anti-Semites flooded to Nugent’s Facebook page to endorse his post and share it with their own Facebook friends (in less than 24 hours, the post had been shared over 2,800 times). Hundreds of white supremacists rushed to exploit and amplify Nugent’s post with their own propaganda, including a number of prominent white supremacists, such as former Klansman David Duke, neo-Nazi David Pringle, Traditionalist Youth Network founder Matt Heimbach and former National Youth Front leader Angelo John Gage.

Gage, a white supremacist activist, blogger and occasional political candidate, helped start the rush when he quickly posted a YouTube video about Nugent’s posting, saying “it shows all these Jews, all of them,” and urging like-minded people to go to Facebook and “start blasting” anti-Semitic propaganda. Gage was not alone. Scott Roberts, another anti-Semite, posted his own YouTube video about the incident, explaining that “we seized this opportunity, Angelo, myself, David Duke…we are injecting that anti-Semitic truth, and taking the point [Nugent] initially came out with and hammering it home.”

On the white supremacist discussion forum Stormfront, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists made similar pleas. “Anyone that is pro-white or ‘alt-right’,” posted user “RavenClaw, “needs to jump on this and comment. Post David Duke videos on there.” Another Stormfronter, “PolishSlavAryan,” asked, “Can we all work together as a team to make it go viral? The mainstream needs to know.” An Oregon Stormfronter explained that “even at this early point the exposure is priceless…Some will look into the ‘jewish problem’ a bit further. Win.”

Hundreds of anti-Semites indeed flocked to Nugent’s Facebook page to share their opinions of Jews. “Jews are the existential enemy to the white race and need to be exterminated off the face of [the] Earth,” wrote a Facebook user with the screen name “Max Macro.” User Dan Dean echoed those sentiments: “Zionists Jews are your deadliest enemy. Virtual wolves in sheep’s clothing. Deep darkness cloaked in a false light.” Others took the opportunity to promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, and anti-Semitic stereotypes, epithets and canards.

A Facebook user with the Holocaust-themed screen name “Zykklon Beaner” urged Nugent not to retract his statement: “No apologies, Ted, stick by your guns, literally and figuratively! F__k these supposed ‘chosen’ Zionist scum!”

So far, Nugent has neither apologized for or deleted his post. To date, his only reaction was to make another post in which he raged against people who had called his original message anti-Semitic and asked how anyone “could possibly not know that Jews for gun control are Nazis in disguise?” Meanwhile, he wrote, “I adjust my yamika [sic] at my barmitzva [sic] playing my kosher guitar.”

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