Tech & Terrorism: Twitter Accepts More Payments From Prominent Islamists Designated By U.S., U.N.

(New York, N.Y.) — The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) this week identified a verified account which appears to belong to Maysar Ali al-Juburi, a U.S. Specially Designated National, suggesting that Twitter has again accepted payment from an individual prohibited by the Treasury Department from making transactions with U.S. entities. Al-Juburi, who is also on the U.N. Security Council’s Sanctions List, is a senior official in the Syria-based group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda affiliate. CEP reported the account to Twitter on February 21, but it remains verified as of March 1.

Earlier this year, Twitter unlawfully accepted payment to verify accounts belonging to Hedayatullah Hedayat, head of Taliban’s department for “access to information,” and Abdul Haq Hammad, the Taliban’s top media watchdog. CEP has also identified pro-ISIS propaganda admonishing the Taliban for purchasing verification for Twitter accounts linked to Taliban figures.

These repeated violations of U.S. and U.N. sanctions demonstrate a shocking laissez-faire attitude towards the implementation of U.S. and international sanctions by Twitter. Allowing the receipt of what can only have been electronic transfers of money from prominent members of U.S.-sanctioned entities on the SDN list represents either a severe failure of internal controls or the near complete lack of these.

“According to the relevant legal provisions, individuals designated by the U.S. and the U.N. should be unable to pay for services from U.S. companies. Providing such services and accepting payments for them is a clear violation. Furthermore, Twitter should clarify how these payments were received and where the money used for the payment originated to allow the investigation of additional violations of U.S. and U.N. sanctions by third parties. Twitter’s repeated processing of payments from individuals tied to al-Qaeda linked groups and the Taliban requires U.S. authorities to intervene. Twitter has a responsibility to its employees, users, and shareholders to always conduct business lawfully as well as to act immediately against content that violates its terms of service,” said CEP senior director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler.

Prior to the introduction of paid verification via the Twitter Blue service, CEP identified Twitter accounts belonging to other U.N.-designated individuals, such as Hamad Abdallah Ahmad Al-Ali. His account remains active but unverified.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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