Opportunistic Politicians Lean On The FBI And Twitter To Shut Down Terrorist Accounts

from the and-then-what?-linkedin? dept

I have no idea what it is with certain politicians that makes them believe they can somehow “curb” violence by cordoning off a section of the internet. They don't seem to realize that determined individuals will simply route around their half-assed roadblock without breaking a sweat. Even worse, they don't seem to realize that useful information on violent groups and individuals can often be gleaned from the very same lines of communication they're trying to cut.

In this case, it’s very much like grandstanding politicians trying to shut down “human traffickers” like Backpages and Craigslist, failing to understand that law enforcement can use the same services to track down offenders. Rather than look for the upside of having a live feed from the enemy front (or realize the ultimate futility of their efforts), these lawmakers have chosen to throw a bunch of effort (or at least, words) behind a bad idea.

Seven House Republicans asked the FBI in September to demand that Twitter take down the accounts of U.S.-designated terrorist groups, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Somalia's al Shabaab. The letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller was spearheaded by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), who said Wednesday that the recent events vindicated the request.

“Allowing foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas to operate on Twitter is enabling the enemy,” Poe said in an e-mailed statement to The Hill. “Failure to block access arms them with the ability to freely spread their violent propaganda and mobilize in their War on Israel.

Now, I'm not going to claim to be smarter than these politicians (although you're certainly welcome to make that claim for me in the comment threads), but I'm curious as to how they arrived at the conclusion that blocking Twitter accounts would somehow result in less violence committed by terrorists. One could argue that breaking down a line of communication might result in some temporary disruption, but I've got to believe that Twitter isn't the only line of communication Hamas has.

Shutting down these accounts would do little more than a) make these politicians feel better about having done something, b) annoy (and possibly provoke) already irritable and violent groups, and c) move communication anti-terrorist entities rely on to a new channel possibly unavailable to them. The downside easily outweighs the upside, because the “upside” only benefits these seven lawmakers, giving them a feeling of power and self-righteousness, which will be cold comfort to those who might actually be using these feeds to glean intelligence and help defend themselves.

Then there's this amazing sentence, which must have been composed by Poe at a cost of one IQ point per letter:

The FBI and Twitter must recognize sooner rather than later that social media is a tool for the terrorists.

Any form of information dissemination can be considered a “tool” for terrorists. Imbuing Twitter with some sort of terrorist-defeating powers is ridiculous. Berating the FBI and Twitter for aiding and abetting terrorism through inaction is even more so. This is merely a continuation of Poe's anti-Twitter obsession, which began back in September when he first penned a letter to the FBI requesting the takedown of these “terrorist” accounts, citing (of all things), Twitter's decision to block a neo-Nazi account in Germany. (The account could still be read anywhere else in the world, or even in Germany with minimal effort.)

Poe is once again attempting to use Twitter's own statement against it, but the FBI just isn't giving this group of lawmakers the one thing they need to get their way:

“Twitter maintains that it will take down any account requested by the FBI,” seven Republican members of Congress wrote to the FBI last month. “As of this writing, the FBI has not made a single request to Twitter to take an account down.”

And (once again), Poe and his co-signers are using recent events to further their own agenda.

“Not one account has been shut down, unlike on YouTube and Facebook,” Poe told the Free Beacon.

“Twitter is not going to take it upon themselves to shut them down,” which is why the FBI needs to take action, Poe said.

The FBI isn't buying it, however.

FBI Special Agent Jason Pack told the Free Beacon, “The FBI received the Congressman’s letter and will respond to it appropriately.”

One assumes Pack “responded” by tossing the angry letter into the nearest trash can, possibly running it through the shredder first. The latest missive means someone at the FBI will need to empty the trash can, but given the results of Poe's previous demands, I highly doubt Twitter will be shuttering any accounts.

Poe has also expressed his disappointment in the Obama administration for not pushing for more Twitter shutdowns.

Poe speculated that one reason the Obama administration has not pursued the issue is because terrorists’ Twitter pages are a rich vein for the intelligence community to mine.

Poe, however, said that this is not a good enough reason to give these radical actors free rein on the Internet.

“If that’s [the administration’s] only way of knowing” what terrorists are up to, “we’ve got some serious problems with our intelligence service,” Poe said.

There's Poe's problem. He views Twitter as the only thing. In his mind, it's the only source of communication for terrorists and it's the only source of intel for the intelligence community. Poe has seized on Twitter as the only problem and won't be dissuaded easily, no matter how often the FBI refuses to indulge his “social media = terror” hobby horse.

The Free Beacon's Republican slant inadvertently suggests that Poe may just be kicking around Twitter because its “best friends” with Obama.

Twitter’s Washington D.C. lobbying team is comprised of several Obama administration confidants and former Democratic Hill staffers. Adam Sharp, the site’s top government liaison, formerly served as deputy chief of staff for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.). Its global public policy official, Colin Crowell, was a senior aide to Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), while Twitter’s head of international strategy, Katie Jacobs Stanton, once worked with the Obama administration on new media strategies.

Since 2011, several individuals who list their employer as Twitter have donated primarily to Democrats, including the Obama campaign and Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.

So… maybe it's not really about terrorism. Maybe it's just good, old fashioned partisanship sporting War on Terror clothing. No matter how you slice it, though, there's only one thing it truly is: stupid.

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Comments on “Opportunistic Politicians Lean On The FBI And Twitter To Shut Down Terrorist Accounts”

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SolkeshNaranek says:

Smarter than a politician

Now, I’m not going to claim to be smarter than these politicians (although you’re certainly welcome to make that claim for me in the comment threads)

There is no need what so ever to be “smart” to succeed as a politician.

The precedent for that statement is evidenced by the sea of seemingly calcified brains that make up our political leaders. Prior to the recent election, there was enough B.S.spewing from the mouths of politicians it seemed as if most of them had been lobotomized.

There is such a discontinuity between what politicians seem to think, and what is happening in the real world I’m surprised the knowledge abyss isn’t strong enough to warp space time around D.C.

out_of_the_blue says:

Well, Tim, I DO have an idea:

You sez: “I have no idea what it is with certain politicians that makes them believe they can somehow “curb” violence by cordoning off a section of the internet.” — They don’t believe that at all, only want domestic power. Learn it. Save ya a lot of time a-wonderin’ bout their motives. The one time in a million that you’re wrong with that premise won’t matter.

“Now, I’m not going to claim to be smarter than these politicians” — Sigh. Yes, you obviously shouldn’t. To even state that is to have given them all the credibility that they need.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Well, Tim, I DO have an idea:

okay, can’t really disagree or even quibble with this, bluester…
as i’ve stated before: it *ain’t* because kongresskritters R so stoopid (though more than a few are), it is because their evil machinations are often cloaked under the catch-all excuse of ‘oh, i did not know that…’, when they knew dog damn well what evil was in the legislation… they were just hoping while obfuscating, so the evil would slide through with little/no notice…

(again, as it commonly does 99% of the time, thanks to our ever-vigilant watchdog press…)

The They ™ DEPEND on most of these crappy bills which benefit a small (rich) fraction at the expense of all of us, NOT being shown in the light of day…
(if the kongresskritter is such a ‘tard they don’t understand the intention of the bill, then so much the better, as far as the plutokrats are concerned…)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Lets see, the major causes of terrorism are poverty, along with lack of education, opportunities and basic medical care. ACTA style treaties preserving the price of copyrighted goods and patented medicine help sustain such conditions.

Put all books online, and allow them to be translated, and include all scientific papers as well, would help significantly with the education problem. Allow poor countries to make medicines at cost, which would also help, rather that do everything possible to prevent this.
Oh, and stop using drones to assassinate people.
These are all things within the purview of politicians, and will do more to prevent terrorism than the war on terrorism.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Lets see, the major causes of terrorism are poverty, along with lack of education, opportunities and basic medical care.

Not really, or at least not directly.

Terrorism is a military tactic. It is a primary tactic used by one side in a war when that side is dramatically outgunned. It is not new or mysterious. It is common and its use goes back for as long as war has been waged. Even in the US revolutionary war, the tactic was used by us against the British — we were dramatically outgunned.

Now, all the causes you list might be motivations behind the war in the first place, but they are not the reasons for the tactic.

Michael (profile) says:

Social Media

“The FBI and Twitter must recognize sooner rather than later that social media is a tool for the terrorists”

Ok, let’s back our way through some technology and see where we would be if no terrorism-tools were ever invented.

– Internet – yup, used by terrorists
– Telephone – yup, used by terrorists
– Cars – yup, used by terrorists
– Firearms – yup, used by terrorists
– Bow and arrow – yup, used by terrorists
– Sharp sticks – yup, used by terrorists
– Clocks – yup, used by terrorists (damn them for timing things)
– Fire – yup, used by terrorists (the word and the actual hot stuff, so that needs to be stopped twice)

hmm…I think the real solution is to get rid of all of the air. If the terrorists did not have any air, we would all be safe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Social Media

have you been watching the old Total Recall again? Taking the air was an option and they tried it… don’t give our current government any ideas…

As soon as they allow the corporations to destroy the environment to the point where everyone will NEED to ‘buy air’, they will have total control…. and don’t think this hasn’t been a thought to some of those in power…

If it sounds crazy enough to be called a ‘crackpot conspiracy theorist’s wet dream’ it probably started out as a ‘politicians wet dream of ultimate power’…. at least that’s what the voices say when I take off the tinfoil hat

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Re:

More bad ideas from the GOP.Makes sense to me as I see the Republicans for the most part as a force that Destroys not builds.
So go ahead GOP A-Holes and make some noise about closing Accounts of Terrorists blah blah.
Then the Terrorists will just go somewhere else.And they will do that.
But for now every time they Post something Online we are reading that Post and Studying it and using it against their Terror Networks.
your Solution is the usual backward GOP thinking………sweep it under the rug huh and make it go away. Ha Ha Ha

Anonymous Coward says:

(although you're certainly welcome to make that claim for me in the comment threads)

Calling those politicians bird-brained would be an insult to birds.

Birds can learn to solve problems, such as pulling a specific sequence of levers to release food.
The politicians in question, having learned nothing from past failures, clearly cannot learn to solve problems.

I suggest dismissing them from service, and replacing them with pigeons.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is the trouble with having idiots for politicians in positions that can screw things up so much with very little effort. have they not heard of having spies in the enemy camps? have they never heard of espionage? dont they see the advantages of having these? are they blind? or is the most important thing to them to do some grandstanding and having their names at the bottom of pointless letters concerning some ridiculous demand? how can there be any confidence in a government that is made up of people that seem to have less sense than a rocking horse?

nightwing2000 says:

Force Them Overseas

Start censoring Twitter (no other word for it) because you disagree with the content of certain users – you simply drive those users to a competing serice not controlled by the USA. Some countries, I seem to recall, have freedom of speech as a virtue. Twitter-ski? Twitter-san? Twitterstan?

Better not tell this to websites that are getting seized, they might move to other country-specific domains too.

Anonymous Coward says:

This paints a beautiful image of an ostrich with its head in the sand.

Pray tell, how successful will they be monitored once Irans’ walled garden internet is up? These communications will just move to a place where all the demands of US politicians will be laughed at and willfully ignored while they continue their discussions unhindered.

lfroen (profile) says:

Hamas vs freedom of ...

Actually, assuming you agree that Hamas IS real terrorist organization, shutting down it’s Twitter (or any else) account is perfectly valid thing to do.
Moreover, some people would like to see Hamas members removed from Twitter by point-blank shot, not by account suspension. If you like to allow enemy propaganda being carried on by your corporation – more power to you, but there’s nothing intrinsically “right” about it.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Hamas vs freedom of ...

“Actually, assuming you agree that Hamas IS real terrorist organization, shutting down it’s Twitter (or any else) account is perfectly valid thing to do”

Why? What point does it serve? The article is pointing out that it is probably unlikely to harm Hamas very much to take down their Twitter account, but it does remove a potential source of intelligence on Hamas activities. So, taking down the feed seems like a poor strategy.

It also underpins one of the complaints of Hamas – that the United States government is, in fact, not as pro-freedom as they claim to be (we don’t like your views, so we are going to pressure a corporation to censor you).

lfroen (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hamas vs freedom of ...

>> Why? What point does it serve?
Strange question. What point do you think this Twitter account serve? Shutting down enemy propaganda always “serve a point”.
>> it does remove a potential source of intelligence
Not really. Hamas members were targeted long before Twitter existed.
>> … that the United States government is, in fact, not as pro-freedom as they claim to be
Freedom for whom? For Hamas members or US citizens? Again, strange point of view.

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