Half of Jordan’s Active Tweeps Get Suspended! What’s Happening

Thursday 19 December 201901:41 pm
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"نشاط مريب من هذا الحساب"... تساؤلات حول إيقاف حسابات تويتر لناشطين أردنيين

"Due to suspicious activity from this account", this was the justification given by Twitter’s management to Jordanian tweeps, after suspending their accounts for days, the tweeps consider the explanation insufficient and vague.

The mystery was not resolved with the reactivation of accounts of politicians, lawyers, journalists and activists, on December 17, 2019, with the majority of accounts remaining suspended.

Jordanian Twitter accounts subject to temporary suspension belong to political and legal activists considered as “opposition”, such as the account of controversial Member of Parliament Dr. Dima Tahboub , and the account of the Jordanian Transparency Center specializing in corruption studies, as well as the account of its managing director Hilda Ajeilat, in addition to political activists, such as activist Ibrahim Al-Shdifat, Mohammad Al-Majali, Mahmoud Hashma, and Lina Kreishan, as well as my own account that I use for journalistic purposes. So far, my account as well as Hilda Ajilat, Dima Tahboub and the Jordanian Transparency Center were reactivated.

Many questions remain unanswered as to the reasons that led to the suspension of the accounts, with the possibility that this tug of war will continue, which is what many observers expect. Many who spoke to Raseef22 warned against the possible scenario of more accounts being shut down and believe that what is happening is not arbitrary but rather a systematic campaign though it is unclear till now which entity is responsible and the reasons for the suspensions.

Patriots Are Not Welcome

MP Dima Tahboub, who is one of the first to have her account suspended on Twitter, said to Raseef22: “Unfortunately, this is not odd for social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook which have been actively punishing activists and public figures for their writing and have placed conditions that are biased toward the Zionist occupation and anyone who is opposed to or writes against these topics is censored completely or partly.”

Tahboub believes that the reason for suspending her account are her tweets that attack the Zionist occupation although her tweets are not limited to this subject but rather are varied even if most of her tweets are political, and she is also active in tweeting about Jordanian political affairs in addition to answering queries and criticism from her followers.

Tahboub adds: "There are those that do not understand what it means for others to hold a different opinion so will report accounts due to a divergence in opinion and it seems this act feels like being awarded a medal of honor and whoever is concerned with issues of the nation will face this fate and be punished in this way"

She concluded the conversation with a confident statement: "In the end, if they shut down or open the accounts, our positions on our major issues and our support for these causes will not change ... they close a window and we open a door."

Reporting Accounts

The method for informing tweeps whose accounts were restricted on Twitter was unified. On logging into their accounts they were met with a white page telling them that the account has been temporarily restricted, and they are required to insert a code to unlock the account, such code was sent by SMS, however, most people who were asked to do so did not receive any text message, I did not get the SMS.

While I was posting an old tweet of the announcement of an episode of my program "Nadwa live" from Jordan’s newspaper Al-Ghad’s Facebook account, where I was going to talk about the gas agreement with Israel, I was surprised to find that my account had been suspended. Like other accounts who were censored by Twitter, I received a message saying that my account was subjected to a series of reports due to “suspicious activity from this account.”

Twitter later restored my account.

Campaign Against Activists

The executive director of the East and West Center for Sustainable Development, Mahmoud Hishmah, also had his account suspended. On Sunday 15 December, he was surprised, after publishing a tweet that talks about the Lebanese revolution, by the suspension of his Twitter account. Also, about three weeks ago, the account of the Jordanian Council for Human Rights Organizations was suspended, and since he manages this page, his account was also suspended.

The account of the Jordanian Human Rights Organizations Council was reinstated at the same time that his personal account on Twitter was suspended. According to him the campaign to suspend Jordanian accounts, most of them activists and opponents, is likely to be a systematic campaign, and it is also likely that the goal of targeting accounts with similar activities on Twitter is so they don't help rescue each other’s accounts.

#Jordanian MP Dima Tahboub on Twitter (and Facebook) censorship of Arab activists: In the end, if they allow or shut down accounts, our positions on major issues and our support for these causes will not change ... they close a window and we open a door.
Younes Arab, an expert on internet freedom, warns that it is likely Twitter suspended so many activists' accounts in #Jordan on a request from government agencies, and that is a very serious breach of civil liberties from Jordan and from Twitter.

He explains that usually when an activist’s Twitter account is suspended, it is reinstated through support campaigns via "Likes" and "Retweets" with the mention of Twitter MENA’s account but in this particular case it was difficult to do because a large number of Jordanian twitter activists are suspended!

As for Hilda Ejailat, she tells Raseef22 that during a trip to Abu Dhabi as a participant and representative of the Jordanian Transparency Centre at an international anti-corruption conference last Saturday, while she was tweeting about the conference from the Transparency Centre account on Twitter, she was stopped suddenly, and the page requested a code to reopen the account.

Hilda continues that at first, she received a text message of the unlock code, so she set it up and the Transparency Centre account was active again, but after a few minutes it was stopped again, then the problem extended to her personal Twitter account.

The managers of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption described what happened to the Transparency Centre account by posting a tweet on their own account tagging Twitter and asking them for the reasons for this suspension.

Possible Reasons

Dr. Younes Arab, an expert on Internet freedom and websites, told Raseef22 that the suspensions that occur happen for three reasons. Firstly, it is due to reporting by people who object to some content which affects them personally or contradicts the values ​​they believe. The platform takes action by first stripping away certain membership privileges such as writing new tweets and as a final measure shuts down the account.

As for the second method, it is through reports that are directed to the management of the platform through monitors working for them in various countries. In this case, relying on the report of the monitor is key since there are regulations and criteria governing these reports.

The third method, which is the most dangerous, according to Dr. Arab, is through reports issued by security authorities and government bodies of a particular country that the platform takes into account in a way that does not conflict with its general objectives, and it is this method that he believes is the reason for the campaign of suspensions among Jordanian tweeps.

Arab added: "I think the kind of group targeted by the suspensions reveals to us which entities were behind it. According to my reading, these accounts belong to politicians, activists, and parties mostly affiliated with the opposition."

When asked whether freedom of the internet is a lie? Arab laughed and said, of course, it is a lie, adding: "We used to say in the past that the internet is a space that no one owns and everyone owns, but today the internet has become linked to security agencies and authorities and is subject to daily monitoring so we no longer talk about Freedom or whatever".

Gagging Everywhere

The Twitter activist, Hussein Al-Sarayreh, agrees with Arab and told Raseef22: "There is no doubt that what is happening is systematic. What happened is that a number of activists’ accounts were targeted though they don't share the same ideology. Dima Tahboub, for example, is an Islamist and discusses a number of things not only the Zionist occupation. Ghada El Sheikh discusses legal issues and Hilda Ejelat is a local activist, which shows there are many kinds of ideologies and discourses."

What happened, according to Al-Sarayra, indicates that there is a systematic campaign against those who are active and influential in the Jordanian Twittersphere and it is not unlikely that there is an agreement between the management of Twitter and the Jordanian security services, especially since the Jordanian government's policy of gagging of freedom of opinion and expression has moved from the street to Twitter.

Al-Sarayreh was not surprised by the reactivation of the suspended accounts, what had transpired was "a cautionary pull of the ear" to keep everyone in check.

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