Twitter Wars With Pro-Israel Group, Suspends Account Amid Crackdown on Speech

Twitter crackdown takes anti-Semitism watchdog offline (updated)

Twitter / Getty Images
Getty Images
March 5, 2018

Twitter has been locked in a spat with a pro-Israel organization that recently found its account on the social media network suspended following accusations the group violated Twitter's policies.

Canary Mission, a group that combats anti-Semitism, found itself suspended from Twitter last week in a move that has developed into an ongoing feud between the pro-Israel group and Twitter, which has suspended and reinstated the account several times in the past days.

As the battle intensified, Canary Mission has accused Twitter of having a "Jewish problem" and of targeting pro-Israel groups for suspension while allowing white supremacists such as David Duke and terror organizations such as Hamas to continue operating unfettered on the social media network.

The battle mirrors a larger debate over Twitter's effort to crackdown on accounts that the company views as engaging in hate speech and intimidation. The crackdown on speech has seen several accounts associated with conservative media frozen, and in some cases, booted off the social network.

The suspension of Canary Mission has been particularly puzzling to its leaders, as Twitter and the anti-Semitism watchdog appear to be in agreement over the toxicity of anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate speech in the public sphere.

Canary Mission routinely works to expose anti-Semitic comments by public officials, anti-Israel advocates, and other individuals and organizations. The group's motto, "if you're racist, the world should know," reflects its efforts to expose growing anti-Semitism among advocates who oppose Israel and support boycotts of the Jewish state.

On Feb. 24, Twitter suspended Canary Mission's account "without reason," according to the group. Following an appeal, Twitter informed Canary Mission that it had violated new policies restricting what Twitter calls "hateful conduct."

The account was reinstated later in the day following outcry from pro-Israel supporters, but locked yet again over the weekend in what Canary Mission claims is an effort by anti-Israel advocates to see it silenced.

A Twitter spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon "the account was temporarily locked in error and has since been restored."

However, a Canary Mission spokesperson told the Free Beacon that it still could not access its Twitter account.

"It is still viewable but Twitter has prevented Canary Mission from accessing its account—unless it deletes a tweet that Twitter claims has violated its rules," the group said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "Could this be the same tweet that caused the initial suspension? If so, the case has just become even more disturbing ... perhaps bizarre."

The repeated suspensions are "wearing thin," the group told the Free Beacon, claiming that Twitter still has not "responded to our appeal, and right now, we remain locked out of our Twitter account."

The tweet in question centers on an effort by Canary Mission to highlight anti-Semitic comments by a University of Arlington student, a routine type of message for the group to publish.

"One of Ellahi's anti-Semitic tweets from May 24, 2012, was a mock cover of Adele's album '21,'" Cannary Mission explained in a subsequent statement. "The singer's face was replaced with Adolf Hitler and the cover title changed to 'Adelef Hitler.' Ellahi added 'Set Fire to the Jews,' mocking the track, 'Set Fire to the Rain.'"

Canary Mission claims that its account was locked as a result of this tweet.

The group has criticized Twitter's decision to suspend and then lock its account, claiming the exposure of anti-Semitism by Israel's detractors does not qualify for censorship under Twitter's new policies.

"This incident is part of a bigger issue that is too important for us to remain silent," Canary Mission said. "If we let this go, then Twitter will be worse for it. That is why on March 4, 2018, we appealed instead of deleting the tweet. So far, we have not heard back from Twitter."

"Twitter seems to have a 'Jewish' problem and it needs to deal with it," the group said. "It suspended, then locked a respected anti-Semitism watchdog, but at the same time it continues to allow white supremacist David Duke to tweet freely, terrorist organization Hamas to push violent propaganda, and radical preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi to promote videos that call for the killing of Jews."


Update March 6, 1:46 p.m.: Following publication of this report, Twitter restored Canary Mission's account and apologized for what it said was an erroneous lockdown.

"We have restored your account, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused," Twitter informed the organization late Monday. "Twitter takes reports of violations of the Twitter Rules very seriously. After reviewing your account, it looks like we made an error."

Published under: Israel , Twitter