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This article was published on November 24, 2011

US congressman goes after Taliban on Twitter

US congressman goes after Taliban on Twitter

It’s not everyday that you get to see, first hand, NATO battling the Taliban. Thanks to Twitter, people have at least been able to witness verbal sparring matches, between NATO’s ISAFmedia account and the Taliban account, ABalkhi.

The Twitter ‘conversations’ were quick to make headlines, but according to a report in the LA Times, members of US congress want Twitter to ban the Taliban presence altogether from the microblogging site.

The reasoning behind the ban is that the pro-Taliban accounts cross a line with the nature of their tweets, which callously record and announce the deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

However, Twitter execs have reportedly stated that the tweets do not violate the website’s terms of service, since the Taliban isn’t listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

While Twitter’s terms of service do forbid threats of violence, Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University told the LA Times that the tweets are well within the rights of those posting them, saying,  “The Taliban feeds, although they use incendiary language, are essentially a news feed of attacks.” According to Rosen, since the Twitter accounts are not announcing “specific and immediate threats of violence” – nothing can be done.

Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, is spearheading the campaign which aims to have any traces of the Taliban removed from the Internet – whether videos, blog posts or otherwise – which promote terrorism. Google has also been targeted by the Senator, due to a lack of restriction on content posted to its blogging platform, Blogger.

Lieberman asked Google to implement a ‘flag’ feature on Blogger, mainly due to the recent arrest of Jose Pimental, on charges of constructing a pipe bomb, the instructions for which were hosted on his blog.

The request is a tricky one and treads a sensitive and fine line – is the Taliban Twitter account simply exercising its right to free speech? The right to free speech only holds true if the statements originate from a country where it’s actually a legitimate right – so where does that leave the Taliban on Twitter?

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