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memri
August 22, 2012 No.
876

Hizbullah Maneuvers To Remain On U.S. Social Media After Being Removed By Facebook, Apple, Droid

Introduction

Yesterday, Hizbullah created two new Facebook pages for its Al-Manar TV, following Facebook's removal of previous Hizbullah and Al-Manar TV pages. This maneuver is a new phase in Hizbullah's efforts to maintain its social media presence. Similarly, Hizbullah has also created new unofficial Apple and Droid apps, after the official ones were removed from the Apple Store and Google Play.

Efforts to remove Hizbullah to social media begin on July 27, 2012, when MEMRI published a report titled Designated Terrorist Organization Hizbullah Makes Extensive Use Of U.S. Social Media – Apple iTunes, iPad and iPhone, Google, Android, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter – In Violation Of U.S. Law detailing how Hizbullah uses American social media for its outreach efforts and to disseminate information. Following the publication of the MEMRI report, Hizbullah's iPhone and iPad apps were removed from iTunes, its Android app was removed from Google Play, and its Facebook pages for Hizbullah and for its Al-Manar TV station were removed; subsequently, MEMRI issued follow-up reports on the issue,[1] which led to another Hizbullah Facebook page being shut down.

The Lebanese media has been closely watching developments in MEMRI's activity against Hizbullah's social media activities. On August 15, 2012, Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) TV reported on the removal of Al-Manar TV pages and apps from social media networks and app stores due to MEMRI efforts. The report began: "In recent days, Al-Manar TV has tried to create new pages using pseudonyms" (MEMRI found new Facebook pages on August 21; MEMRI is continuing to report on pages as they are created).

The LBC report continued: "It is a nonviolent war. Its latest chapter is Apple's and Google's removal of Al-Manar TV apps. It began, however, at the end of last July, with a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute on the intensive use made by Hizbullah of social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and mobile apps. The institute demanded that this use be terminated, claiming that it runs counter to U.S. laws, which prohibit any company on its soil from having dealings with an organization on the terror list.

"The apps were removed, and then Facebook began to remove all pages associated with Hizbullah and with its media outlets. The Hizbullah and Al-Manar TV pages disappeared from Facebook. In recent days, Al-Manar TV has tried to create new pages using pseudonyms, but Facebook is no stranger to such attempts, and would remove every page opened under the name of Hizbullah or of its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, issuing a warning to the initiators of these efforts stating that their pages promoted terrorism and hatred."

It concluded: "The war has begun. How will Hizbullah respond to this electronic onslaught, which aims to ban it from the world of social media?"

On August 8, 2012, Google's director of communications for the Middle East and North Africa, Maha Abouelenein, was quoted by the Arabic news site Zawya as saying, "We remove applications that violate our policies, such as apps that are illegal or that promote hate speech." She also told Gulf News, "We don’t comment on individual applications – however, you can check out our policies for more [information]."[2]

On August 17, 2012, the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star discussed and summarized key findings of the MEMRI report that it said was "calling for social networks to exclude Hizbullah and its affiliates."[3] It also quoted a Facebook spokesman, Frederic Wolens, as saying: "Under our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, we do not allow content that 'incites violence...' and to help keep our site safe, we use the [U.S.] State Department list of Foreign Terror Organizations to help make determinations of which groups may be involved in the promotion of violence. Due to Hizbullah's appearance on the list, they have been removed from the site." According to the report, Wolens said that this extended to Al-Manar TV as well.

Over the past week, Hizbullah has vowed that its apps will return to Apple's iTunes, iPad, and iPhone, as well as to Google Play and Droid. It also vowed to return to Facebook.

MEMRI is continuing to monitor Hizbullah as it creates new Facebook pages and new, unofficial apps for Google Play and Apple, and to notify the companies involved.

Meanwhile, both Twitter and YouTube have continued to allow Hizbullah to maintain a presence – and by doing so to break U.S. law – despite repeated notification by MEMRI.

How Hizbullah's Social Media Activity And Main Website Can Be Eliminated

In addition to an immediate shutdown of Hizbullah's Twitter and YouTube accounts, there are other ways to seriously impede the group's continued activity on social media and online. Search engines can use their search algorithm to find Hizbullah outlets – similar to the way Google is beginning to alter its search algorithm to lower search rankings of sites with "high numbers" of copyright-infringement removal notices.[4] Also, the ISPs hosting Hizbullah's main website can simply shut the sites down. (This issue will be the subject of a future MEMRI report.)

New Hizbullah Facebook Pages – Created Yesterday

Yesterday, Hizbullah added two new Facebook pages – one for news from Al-Manar TV (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Al-manaronline-news/510136715679603) and the other for Al-Manar TV programming (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Al-manaronline-programs/420001361369450).

Following Droid's Removal Of Al-Manar App, Hizbullah Provides "Alternative Ways" For Download

On August 13, 2012, Al-Manar's website posted an announcement titled "Despite All Attempts To Remove It, Al-Manar Now On Android." The announcement stated: "Al-Manar is now back, as it promised its audience, to find alternative ways for the download of Google Play [i.e. Droid] and Apple Store applications on Android devices, through our website, by following the instructions below:

"1. Download the application by clicking on the link... almanar.com.lb/AlmanarTv.apk

"2. When you have finished the download, install the application by clicking on it (you'll find the application in the list of applications that have been downloaded)

"3. Then a warning appears that this application has been downloaded from outside Google Play

"4. Click on settings

"5. Allow installation of non-Market applications

"Now, you can install the application and follow-up [on] our news."

This app also offers users an opportunity to directly contact Hizbullah via email, and also to provide their contact details and subscribe.

It should be noted that Al-Manar is still claiming that it has an official Android app and is still using the Android logo.

Following Apple's Removal Of Al-Manar Apps From iPad and iPhone, Al-Manar Claims It Is Back

On August 16, 2012, following its removal from Apple's iPad and iPhone, Al-Manar claimed on its website to have returned, "as promised" – also via "alternative ways."

In an article titled "Al-Manar Again On iPad, iPhone As Promised," the website stated: "As Al-Manar website promised audience, Al-Manar application is back on iPad and iPhone devices via alternative ways… The application can be downloaded via Al-Manar website.

"To download Al-Manar iPad and iPhone application, follow these steps:

"1. Be sure that your device software version is 5.0 and above

"2. Click on the following link to download the software to your PC: Download the application

"3. Extract the package (open the zip file) to your PC

"4. Connect the iPhone/iPad to your PC

"5. Open itools.exe located inside the almanartv\itools folder

"6. Click on "application".

"7. Click on "Install" and choose iPhone/iPad application.

"8. Once installation is finished, this image will appear:

"And so, you have successfully installed Al-Manar TV application on your device."

Facebook Removes Nearly A Dozen Hizbullah Pages

Following the publication of MEMRI's July 27 report and Facebook's subsequent shutdown of Hizbullah's and Al-Manar's pages, Hizbullah continued to create Facebook pages, and Facebook has continued to shut them down.

Following the initial shutdown of Facebook pages, Al-Manar announced that it had already created six new Facebook pages; all these were removed.

The Media/News/Publishing Facebook page below was created August 7, 2012 and a week later, on August 15, it had 281 "likes"; by the end of the same day it had been shut down and was no longer accessible.

It is possible that all these new Facebook pages could have been decoys; concurrently, another Al-Manar page, created in July 2012 and with over 40,000 "likes," was operating (below). After MEMRI notified Facebook about this page, it was removed, on August 17.

Still Active – Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah's Facebook Page

The "Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah" Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sayyed-Hassan-Nasrallah/226297517432834) was created October 21, 2011, and currently has 2,693 "likes." The very first post, on the same day, stated in English: "O Allah, Please Clean This World From Jewish Contamination."

The following are some posts on the Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah page:

*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).