The British newspaper The Guardian reported that the social networking site Twitter has suspended the accounts of Jordanian preacher Abu Qatada (Omar Mahmoud Othman), Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi (Essam Muhammad Tahir Al-Barqawi), the Egyptian Islamist director of the London-based Maqrizi Centre for Studies Dr Hani Al-Sibai and other extremist supporters of Al-Qaeda. Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, is one of the most prominent preachers of extremism and has a great influence on young members of Al-Qaeda.
The newspaper quoted a scholar of jihadism at Princeton University named Cole Bunzel who tweeted “After years tolerating them, Twitter finally suspends accounts of 3 leading Al-Qaida-aligned scholars, Al-Maqdisi, Abu Qatada & Al-Siba’i”.
Bunzel explained that the three accounts were not used to attack the west, but rather focused on the Syrian issue. He pointed out that the accounts were also used to attack ISIS and that users commented on other legal and religious issues. Bunzel told the Guardian that “Attacking the west is not a priority in their messaging”.
The report also stated that Twitter has cracked down heavily on ISIS supporters and that this has led them to shifting towards alternative messaging services including Telegram. However, Al-Qaida supporters have not been so greatly targeted.
British sources indicated that Twitter has not been targeting supporters of Al-Qaeda, but that it does target leaders of the organisation.
The report mentioned the story of Abu Qatada, and how he was deported from Britain to Jordan to face terror related charges after a legal battle that lasted for 10 years. He was released from custody by the Jordanian authorities last summer after he was acquitted of the charges against him. As for Al-Maqdisi, he has become an important voice in criticising ISIS since his release.
The newspaper quoted Twitter’s response to the closure of the three accounts by saying that it could not comment on individual accounts due to privacy and security reasons. However, a spokesperson for Twitter said: “We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter rules make it clear that this type of behaviour, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service. Since the middle of 2015 alone, we’ve suspended more than 360,000 accounts for threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS.”