Twitter and the Law of War

June 12, 2011 — 2 Comments

NATO has disclosed some ways they use twitter according to a report released by AFP.

NATO has made three statements regarding their use of Twitter.

Firstly Wing Commander Mike Bracken has stated that NATO gets information from “open sources on the internet, we get Twitter,” which is a surprise to no one.

More interesting is that NATO officials have stated:

1) Libyans have been providing information in tweets regarding troop movements
2) NATO Intelligence monitor twitter to identify targets

There are a few points to make about this:

A) These activities run the risk of blurring the distinction between combatants and the civilian population which can endanger the general civilian population.

B) Regarding 1) – it isn’t stated whether these Libyans are combatants (integrated in the militia) or civilian, but its worth noting that civilians who engage directly in combat – which would include providing targeting information – would run a risk of being placed in the unfortunate category of “unlawful combatants” and facing criminal liability for their actions. Just to note, even if they were placed in this category, they should still be treated humanely but they might not be granted POW status.

C) States using civilians in violation of the law of war will be in breach of their responsibility under that law.

In a conflict ostensibly aimed at protecting civilians, which will doubtless inform the way future conflicts are conducted, consideration needs to be given to these issues.

2 responses to Twitter and the Law of War

  1. 
    ephemeris360 June 12, 2011 at 03:56

    I agree that people must use discretion when engaging social media platforms for any purpose but are you suggesting that genuine resistance to the aggressive occupation of a sovereign nation is to be discouraged?

    The only Libyans who would disclose the position of government militias or armed civilians, would be NATO informants. Given the extremity of the barbarity demonstrated by the “imported, U.S. funded, al qaeda rebels”, it would not be beneath them to inform on unarmed refugees fleeing places like Misurata, in order to manufacture consent for NATO strikes.

    Whether Libyans are in the militias defending against NATO or are civilians the fact is that NATO’s position is illegitimate.

    You must understand that resolution 1970 (please see clause 6) and 1973 are in themselves a violation and mockery of International law.

    NATO was never concerned about protecting civilians. If that were the case why would a “no fly zone” require unrelenting bombardments and the openly stated intention to assassinate Gadaffi and his family?

    Indeed, if NATO intended to protect civilians, why are they using depleted uranium munitions?

    Genocide is what NATO is commiting and anything the Libyan people must do in their own defense is, under International law, both legal and acceptable.

    NATO’s Air War In Libya: 10,570 Air Missions, 3,999 Strike Sorties – Doc

    Alexandra Valiente

  2. 
    Global Peace Libya June 21, 2011 at 14:44

    OPEN LETTER TO TWITTER: STOP NATO FROM USING YOUR DOMAIN FOR THEIR KILLINGS IN LIBYA!
    June 19, 2011

    During this past week a number of articles have reported on the use of Twitter to provide Target Acquisition information to NATO:

    “How social media users are helping NATO fight Gadhafi in Libya” *1)
    “Libya air strikes: Nato uses Twitter to help gather targets” *2)
    “NATO draws on Twitter for Libya strikes” *3)

    This means NATO is using YOUR DOMAIN to target civilian sites to destroy and cause mass casualties and deaths of Libyan civilians!!!

    A random check made clear NATO gets their information, i.e. latitude and longitude information of Libyan government forces and other strategic/logistic information, from tweets like these:

    http://storify.com/antireb/list-of-tweets-sent-to-and-used-by-nato-to-bomb-ta

    which information is tweeted to: @NATO, @NATOpress, @NATOlibrary, @NATOchannel,@NATOSource, @AndersFoghR, @SteveMcCluskey, @UKMilOps and/or @HMS_Nonsuch.

    The war on Libya is widely regarded as ILLEGAL, both under international law and under US statutes including the War Powers Resolution. (see http://www.accuracy.org/release/libya-war-illegal/)

    Therefore, anyone collaborating in acts of violence connected to this war is arguably a criminal conspirator; his/her actions are analogous to those of a gang member using online communication to inform a contract killer of the location of his victim.

    Under US federal law, transmitting information containing threats of injury or death is a criminal offense:

    “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing … any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
    18 U.S.C. § 875 (c)

    Courts have held that this statute applies, not only to the person sending the illegal communication, but also to any Internet Service Provider that transmits the communication. Seehttps://www2.bc.edu/~yen/ISPLiab.pdf

    Simply by transmitting bombing coordinates posted by its users, therefore, Twitter may be in violation of federal criminal law.

    Moreover, Twitter’s Terms of Service – the so-called “Twitter Rules” *4) – clearly state:

    “You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others”
    as well as
    “You may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or for promotion of illegal activities.”

    Therefore Twitter appears to be in VIOLATION, not only of the law, but also of its own Terms of Service.

    We therefore urgently request you to take action against twitter accounts that directly contribute to the destruction of Libya and the casualties and deaths of thousands of Libyan people.

    Sincerely,

    @antireb
    @Al_Fatah69
    @1D4TW
    @360CNN
    @BritishLebanese
    @Chris_Sedlmair
    @cordeliers
    @electradiffusa
    @Gegenstrom
    @george1079
    @Hatuxka
    @Ilja_Oblomov
    @GloPeaceLibya
    @MichaelLee2009
    @MutherOFpearl
    @Scrinthe
    @sharpfang
    @StopBombing
    @Waterput
    @Quoriana

    *1) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/africa-mideast/how-social-media-users-are-helping-nato-fight-gadhafi-in-libya/article2060965/ (June 14, 2011)

    *2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/15/libya-nato-gathers-targets-twitter?CMP=twt_gu (June 15, 2011)

    *3) http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/nato-draws-on-twitter-for-libya-strikes/2011/06/15/AGLJpTWH_story.html (June 16, 2011)

    *4) http://support.twitter.com/groups/33-report-a-violation/topics/121-guidelines-best-practices/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules

    ————————————-
    Recommended links:
    – List of Tweets sent to and used by NATO to bomb targets in Libya

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