The Hill, by Kyle Shideler, November 28, 2016:
While formally used as a way to visually display that Twitter has confirmed a given user’s identity, marketing specialists say that the little blue check mark is immense advantage to promoting one’s brand and message.
Twitter says verified accounts are those viewed as being in the “public interest,” and emphasizes “users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.”
It’s no wonder then, that social media erupted when it was discovered that the Twitter decided to verify @Ikhwanweb, the official twitter handle of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Critics have rightly pointed out that @Ikhwanweb has been used by the Muslim Brotherhood to promote violence, including publishing a 2015 call for violent jihad and “martyrdom,” and spreads anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, and anti-Western hatred online.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a global Islamic revivalist organization that seeks to take political power in order to promote its ideology, which calls for the establishment of Islamic law and ultimately promotes violent jihad against all those who oppose it, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
The Brotherhood has historically helped to spawn numerous terrorist organizations including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and even Al Qaeda, and Brotherhood members in the United States have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.
After falling from power in Egypt in 2013 amidst a popular uprising and military coup, the Muslim Brotherhood was designated as a terrorist organization by Egypt as well as the United Arab Emirates. Other regional states, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have also launched occasional crackdowns on the Islamist group, which they accuse of promoting the overthrow of governments and close ties to terrorism.
The U.S. Congress is also currently considering legislation that would ask the State Department to designate the group as a terrorist organization. Walid Phares, a counterterrorism advisor to the Trump campaign, has said that President-Elect Trump would consider designating the group as well.
Twitter’s decision to verify the Muslim Brotherhood comes at a time when the social media company’s platform is already regarded as something of a bête noire among counterterrorism professionals who say it serves as a ready outlet for Islamic extremists to promote their message, conduct recruiting, and even promote terror attacks.
Despite pressure from governments, Twitter’s effort to crackdown on such abuse has not been successful. In August of this year, British MPs issued a formal report that social media outlets, including Twitter, “are consciously failing” to police their platforms against terrorists.
Yet while Twitter has failed against Islamic extremists, it’s proven remarkably effective at purging right-wing voices with which it apparently disagrees.
Twitter argues that verification does not represent an endorsement but their use of revoking verification as a form of punishment against those with whom it disagrees belies the fact.
Twitter has also successfully purged controversial “alt-right” twitter accounts from its platform, leading Hollywood actor James Woods, a noted conservative with an active twitter following, to announce he would quit the social media platform over what he regarded as censorship.
The verification of the Muslim Brotherhood’s twitter account creates a very real, and odious, double standard. A group linked to actual terror, and designated as such by governments, receives something akin to Twitter’s imprimatur while other voices, regarded as merely offensive, have been silenced. Twitter’s success with targeting some voices, while permitting others free-reign and advantage suggests it is playing favorites.
At a minimum, the social media company should meet with Muslim Brotherhood’s critics to receive an appropriate education on the nature of the group and to show that @Ikhwanweb is far from a “public interest” group.
Even more preferably would be the revocation of @Ikhwanweb’s verification status and an investigation into what policy failures led the company to make the decision to provide the Muslim Brotherhood with verification in the first place.
Failing to do so may be viewed as an implicit endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood and its behavior.
Kyle Shideler is the Director of the Threat Information Office at the Center For Security Policy.