Congressional Legislation On Designated Terrorist Organization Hizbullah Aimed At Removing Online Presence Of Its TV Network Al-Manar, Which Is Active On U.S. Social Media; Deadline Was Yesterday

By: Steven Stalinsky*

March 16, 2016

“Due to the security situation, I should stay away from anything related to mobile phones or the internet. Thus, I don’t have a direct relationship with Facebook. However, I am always up to date on all sorts of discussions, rumors, and conversations happening on Facebook, through reports and summaries on the issue.” (Hizbullah Leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, August 14, 2014)

On December 16, 2015, Congress passed the “Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.” The act requires a report to be presented to Congress within 90 days, by March 15, 2016, detailing the activities of entities doing business with the terrorist group, including with its TV network Al-Manar.

The section of the legislation relating to Al-Manar states:

“SEC. 101. REPORT ON IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS ON CERTAIN SATELLITE PROVIDERS THAT CARRY AL-MANAR TV.

“(a) In General. – Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees and leadership a report on the following:

“(1) The activities of all satellite, broadcast, Internet, or other providers that have knowingly entered into a contractual  relationship with al-Manar TV, and any affiliates or successors thereof.

“(2) With respect to all providers described in paragraph (1) –

“(A) an identification of those providers that have been sanctioned pursuant to Executive Order 13224 (50 U.S.C. 1701 note;  relating to blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism); and

“(B) an identification of those providers that have not been sanctioned pursuant to Executive Order 13224 and, with respect to each such provider, any information indicating that the provider has knowingly entered into a contractual relationship with al-Manar TV, and any affiliates or successors of al-Manar TV.

Over the past five years, MEMRI has published a series of reports about Hizbullah’s activity on social media.[1]  Many of the accounts highlighted in these reports have been shut down; however, most of them have been reactivated. It is worth noting that as the 90-day deadline approached, Iranian media reported that Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah’s account on the social media site Instagram had been shut down.[2]

The following report details Al-Manar’s current online activity on U.S.-based websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as Al-Manar’s own websites, which are hosted on U.S.-based Internet service providers (ISPs). If they are named in the report to Congress, which is now overdue, ISPs in a contractual relationship with Al-Manar could be targeted with sanctions on their property and financial transactions. It is unclear what, if any, additional penalties may apply.

It should also be noted that in March 2016, both the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League passed resolutions designating Hizbullah a terrorist organization.

Hizbullah Creates Telegram Account For Leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah

In September 2015, Hizbullah launched an official account for its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, on the Germany-based encrypted messaging app Telegram. While the Al-Manar TV app was removed from iTunes and Google Play in 2012, the  messages of Hizbullah and of other jihadi organizations are accessible via Telegram.[3]


Hassan Nasrallah’s Telegram page was opened on September 25, 2015. As of March 7, 2016, the page has 2,052 followers. Content hosted by the Telegram account includes his lectures and speeches.

Al-Manar Website Hosted By Miami-Based Company

Al-Manar’s website has been hosted in Miami for over four years, and MEMRI has informed the ISP, Vault Networks, of this. MEMRI previously reported that Vault Networks and other U.S.-based companies have been used to host Al-Manar’s website.[4]

 
Vault Networks, the company whose servers host almanar.com.lb, is located in Miami, FL. Its website describes its services as including “server solutions, colocation services, cloud computing, hybrid cloud solutions, backup services, and technical service.” The Al-Manar website, accessed at the URL host almanar.com.lb, has been traced to a computer system located in Miami.

Al-Manar Website Starts Live Broadcast Via YouTube, Facebook


On December 2, 2015, Al-Manar announced its decision to broadcast its programs on Facebook and YouTube. This makes the channel accessible to everyone online, including in countries where it has been blocked and outlawed.

Al-Manar News English Twitter Page – Still Active


Al-Manar’s English-language Twitter account. As of March 7, 2016, the account had 2,030 followers. The account has been operational since December 2013.

Al-Manar News Arabic Twitter Page – Still Active


As of March 7, 2016, Al-Manar’s Arabic-language Twitter page had 312,000 followers. The account was opened in July 2010.

Al-Manar French Twitter Page – Still Active


This page had 811 followers as of March 7, 2016. It has been online since December 2013.

Moqawama Games Twitter Page – Still Active


This page had seven followers as of March 7, 2016, and has been online since November 2013.

Moqawama is Hizbullah’s secondary news source aside from Al-Manar. In addition to Al-Manars social media pages, Moqawama has accounts on Twitter and Facebook.[5]

The Al-Manar TV Arabic Facebook Page – Still Active


The “Al-Manar TV (Lebanon)” Facebook page, which hosted some of the channel’s live broadcasts, had 12,990 followers on March 7, 2016. The page was created in June 2011.

The Al-Manar TV English Facebook Page – Still Active


The “Al-Manar News English” Facebook page had 1,032 followers on March 7, 2016. The page was created in February 2014.

“AlManar Channel” On YouTube – Still Active


The “Al-Manar Channel 2” YouTube page had 14,204 subscribers as of March 7, 2016. The channel went online on September 18, 2013.

Al-Manar’s Live Streams In Action


These are examples of an Al-Manar live-stream broadcast on YouTube. During this broadcast, the page had 2,524 followers and, as of March 7, 2016, it had 3,037 followers.

“Channel AlManar 1” On YouTube – Still Active


The “ChannelAlManar1” page on YouTube had 5,575 subscribers as of March 7, 2016. The channel has been online since April 24, 2013.

“Channel AlManar 2” On YouTube – Still Active


“ChannelAlManar2” on YouTube had 2,769 subscribers as of March 7, 2016. It has been online since May 9, 2013.

“Almanar” YouTube Channel – Still Active


The “Almanar Channel” on YouTube hosts additional broadcasts, which have been shared since the introduction of the mobile broadcasting service. It had 1,123 subscribers as of March 7, 2016. This channel has been online since August 17, 2013.

Arabic “Al-Manar” YouTube Channel – Still Active


As of March 7, 2016, the Arabic “Al-Manar” YouTube channel had 3,555 followers. The channel has been online since December 17, 2012.

The “Sayed Nasrallah” YouTube Channel – Still Active


This YouTube account, opened in the name of Hizbullah leader Nasrallah, hosts news reports from Al-Manar. It had 2,176 followers as of March 7, 2016, and was launched on May 22, 2010.

Al-Manar Sport YouTube Channel – Still Active


Al-Manar hosts an additional YouTube channel dedicated to sports. It had 372 followers as of March 7, 2016. The channel went online on December 29, 2011.

Al-Manar’s Google+ Page – Still Active


The “AlManar Channel” Google+ page had 796 followers as of March 7, 2016. 

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

Endnotes:

[1] See the following reports:

– MEMRI CJL, Twitter Continues To Evade Explaining Its Breaking of U.S. Law and Its Indirect Support For Online Jihad: The Case of Hizbullah and Al-Manar TV, December 22, 2011. – MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 863, 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, July 27, 2012.

– MEMRI Special Dispatch No.4862, MEMRI Report on Hizbullah’s Use Of U.S. Social Media Companies Leads To Facebook, Apple, Google Removing Their Content; Twitter And YouTube Still In Violation Of U.S. Law, August 2, 2012.

– MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 876, Hizbullah Maneuvers To Remain On U.S. Social Media After Being Removed By Facebook, Apple, Droid, August 22, 2012.

– MEMRI JTTM Report, Al-Manar TV, Banned By The U.S. And U.K., Now Hosted On U.K. And Netherlands Servers, November 8, 2012.

– MEMRI CJL, Tracking Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV Online: Removed From Servers In Netherlands And U.S. As A Result Of MEMRI Reports – And Now Hosted On Servers In U.K., December 4, 2012.

– MEMRI CJL, Hizbullah Circumvents August 2012 Bans By Apple And Google And Violates U.S., Dutch Law By Providing Ways To Download Its Apps For iPhone And iPad – Via Its Website – And For Android – Via The Netherlands-Based Aptoide And The TX-Based WhatsApp, February 8, 2013.

– MEMRI CJL, Tracking Hizbullah Online – Part IV: Websites Hosted In Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, California; On Social Media, Including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter – And WhatsApp; Apps Available From Apple Store, Google Play For iPhone And Android, May 16, 2014.

[2] En.farsnew.com, February 23, 2016.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 876, Hizbullah Maneuvers To Remain On U.S. Social Media After Being Removed By Facebook, Apple, Droid, August 22, 2012.

[4] See MEMRI CJL, Tracking Hizbullah Online – Part IV: Websites Hosted In Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, California; On Social Media, Including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter – And WhatsApp; Apps Available From Apple Store, Google Play For iPhone And Android, May 16, 2014.

[5] See MEMRI CJL, Tracking Hizbullah Online – Part IV: Websites Hosted In Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Texas, California; On Social Media, Including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter – And WhatsApp; Apps Available From Apple Store, Google Play For iPhone And Android, May 16, 2014.