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Can the U.S. Government close social media accounts?

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The Obama administration and The New York Times are teaming up to expose and combat the grave threat posed by a Twitter account, purportedly operated by the Somali group Shabab, and in doing so, are highlighting the simultaneous absurdity and perniciousness of the War on Terror. This latest tale of Dark Terrorist Evil began on December 14 when the NYT' s Jeffrey Gettleman directed intrepid journalistic light on the Twitter account maintained under the name "HSMPress," which claims to be the press office of Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, the Shabab's full name. Gettleman's article included this passage early on in its account:

But terrorism experts say that Twitter terrorism is part of an emerging trend and that several other Qaeda franchises -- a few years ago the Shabab pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda -- are increasingly using social media like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter.

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That has to be the single most amusing phrase ever to appear un-ironically in the Paper of Record: Twitter terrorism. And, of course, the authority cited for this menacing trend is that ubiquitous sham community calling itself "terrorism experts," which exists to provide the imprimatur of scholarly Seriousness on every last bit of inane fear-mongering hysteria. That cottage industry (like the government's demands for greater power and Endless War) remains vibrant only if Terrorism does (that is, Terrorism by Muslims: a propagandistic redundancy). Thus, with Osama bin Laden dead, a full decade elapsed since the last successful Terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and the original Al Qaeda group rendered inoperable, these experts are now warning the nation about lurking sleeper tweets.

In that original article, Gettleman detailed the taunting Twitter messages directed by this account at the Kenyan Army, which has responded in kind. The exchanges sound exactly like every other petty, schoolyard Internet spat that has ceaselessly sprouted up in every cyber crevice for the last two decades. After quoting a Terrorism expert from Rand on the menace of social media Terrorism, Gettleman provided just a small taste of the frightening threat posed by this innovative vehicle for jihadism:

For the Shabab, this often translates into pithy postings, like "Europe was in darkness when Islam made advances in physics, Maths, astronomy, architecture, etc. before passing on the torch," and sarcastic jabs at the Kenyan Army. Kenya's military spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, is also a loquacious writer of posts, and the result is nothing short of a full-on Twitter war.

After Major Chirchir wrote that the Shabab might be transporting weapons on donkeys and that "any large concentration and movement of loaded donkeys will be considered as Al Shabaab activity," the Shabab responded: "Like bombing donkeys, you mean! Your eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned, Major."

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Major Chirchir fired back, "Life has better to offer than stonning [sic] innocent girl," a reference to the Shabab's penchant for harsh Islamic punishments like stoning.

The Shabab have teased Major Chirchir for his spelling mistakes and have tossed around some SAT-quality words.

"Stop prevaricating & say what you really think, Major!" the Shabab wrote. "Sure your comments will invite derision but try to muster (or feign) courage at least."


Read the entire article at Salon.
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Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place (more...)
 

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