Hassan Nasrallah.

X under scrutiny for enabling Hezbollah, Houthi propaganda machine

A TTP report found that over a dozen X (Twitter) accounts linked to Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthi rebels, and other Iranian-backed militias had been granted blue checkmarks. Twitter charges a fee for this verification, potentially violating U.S. sanctions that prohibit financial dealings with terrorist entities. After the report was published, most of the evidence was removed from the accounts in question.

On November 3, 2023, the leader of the terror organization Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened to escalate the confrontation with Israel on its northern border with Lebanon. "One day I intend to announce that we have entered the battle," he said in a televised speech, and went on to praise the attack by Hamas terrorists from Gaza, which he also called "proof that Israel is weaker than spider web." That very month, Nasrallah received a special gift from X (formerly Twitter): a blue checkmark next to his user's name on the account, evidence that he pays the company for access to its premium service, which provides, among other things, greater exposure to his content.
And he is not the only one. An investigation by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) reveals that more than a dozen X accounts linked to Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and other Iranian-funded militias have a blue checkmark next to their account, and apparently pay X for it. All of these entities are defined by the U.S. as terrorist organizations, so this is, apparently, a violation of the American sanctions that prohibit economic engagement with them.
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חשבון X של חסן נסראללה עם וי כחול
חשבון X של חסן נסראללה עם וי כחול
Hassan Nasrallah.
(X screen shot)
These accounts belong to individuals or organizations that appear on the blacklist of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and are subject to economic sanctions. According to these sanctions, American citizens and companies are prohibited from conducting transactions with these parties, including donating or providing funds, goods, and services, unless they have received a special permit from the government.
"We were surprised to learn that X provides premium services to a wide range of groups that the U.S. has sanctioned for terrorist activity or other acts that harm national security," TTP director Katie Paul told the New York Times. "This is another sign that X has lost control of its platform."
Under the control of Elon Musk, X has received plenty of criticism for its failures in content monitoring, which have allowed the spread of inflammatory and hateful content, particularly anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli material that has gained significant circulation on the platform since October 7. An Anti-Defamation League report from November identified a 1,000% increase in anti-Semitic content on Musk's X. Additionally, a report from the Center for Combating Digital Hate found that X failed to remove 98% of inflammatory posts reported to it. Furthermore, a State of Anti-Semitism report released this month identified X as responsible for spreading nearly 70% of the anti-Semitic content on the internet.
The current report indicates that Twitter contributes to anti-Semitic and inciting discourse not only passively but also actively. As part of an investigation, TTP mapped a dozen X accounts linked to organizations under U.S. sanctions, displaying a blue checkmark. This checkmark indicates that the user pays X for its premium service, which offers benefits such as the ability to publish longer posts and greater exposure to published content. This is despite the fact that these accounts regularly publish content promoting hatred and incitement against Israel and the USA.
Alongside the accounts related to Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels, the organization identified accounts belonging to Iranian-funded militias, media outlets of terrorist organizations, and media outlets and financial entities controlled by Iran and Russia, which are also under similar American sanctions and receive premium services from X. the report stated that the fact that X requires users to pay a monthly or annual fee for its premium service indicates that X conducts financial transactions with these accounts, potentially violating U.S. sanctions.
According to TTP, the investigation they conducted identified nine accounts linked to Hezbollah or its officials. The most prominent of them is @SH_NasrallahEng, which features Nasrallah's picture and name. The account has a blue checkmark next to a note indicating that ID verification has been performed for the account holder—a premium service in which the user is required to provide a photocopy of a government ID card to verify their identity. The account was created in October 2021 and verified in November 2023, and has approximately 96,300 followers. It consistently publishes threatening and inciting content. For example, in December, a video of rockets being fired by Hezbollah terrorists was published on the account, accompanied by the caption "We are coming...".
TTP also identified premium accounts belonging to Nasrallah's deputy, Naim Kasem; Hezbollah financier Hassan Mukhaled, who has been under US sanctions since January 2023; Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station; three accounts of the Al-Ahed news site identified as linked to Hezbollah; and a body called Resistance Monitor, which displays the Hezbollah logo in its profile picture and publishes pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israeli posts.
Additionally, five blue checkmarked accounts related to the Houthi armed militia movement in Yemen, Ansar Allah, were identified, including the movement's official account created in March 2015, which displays a blue checkmark as of this month. This comes only weeks after the USA designated Ansar Allah as a global terrorist movement due to its attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea. The account has close to 24,000 followers. Four accounts related to the television station of the Houthi rebels, Al-Masirah, were also identified, including one with 785,000 followers. The X account of Harakat al-Nujaba, an Iranian-funded militia operating in Iraq and Syria, also has a blue checkmark.
X did not respond to TTP's inquiry on the subject, but a few hours after the publication of the report, most of the checkmarks were removed from the mentioned accounts, and the account of the Iranian militia Harakat al-Nujaba was suspended. In a statement published by X, the company said: "X has robust and secure access to our monetization capabilities while complying with legal obligations, along with independent screening of our payment providers. Several accounts mentioned in the report are not directly included in the sanctions lists, while others are without having received sanctioned services. Our teams have reviewed the report and will take action if necessary. We are always committed to ensuring that we maintain a safe and secure environment on our platform."