Twitter sparked a row with US President Donald Trump this week by flagging two of his tweets for misinformation, but the social media firm appears to have left alone Iran’s supreme leader, despite an appeal from Israel to suspend his account over its “anti-Semitic and genocidal” messages.
Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Monday calling for the “immediate suspension” of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s account “over his consistent posting of anti-Semitic and genocidal posts,” her ministry said in a statement.
“Examples of such include Khamenei calling for the ‘elimination’ of the ‘Zionist entity’ while asserting the ‘Zionist regime is a deadly, cancerous growth,’ which must ‘be uprooted and destroyed,’” the letter read.
Farkash-Hacohen said Khamenei had used the platform to praise terror groups including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in violation of the company’s policies.
As of Friday morning the tweets remained on Khamenei’s feed and Dorsey was not known to have offered a response to Farkash-Hacohen’s letter.
4. The Zionist regime is a deadly, cancerous growth and a detriment to this region. It will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed. Then, the shame will fall on those who put their facilities at the service of normalization of relations with this regime.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 22, 2020
Some argue that the Zionist regime is a reality that the region must come to terms with. Today the #Covid_19 is a reality; should it be accepted or fought?!
The long-lasting virus of Zionism will be uprooted thanks to the determination and faith of the youth. #Covid1948
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 22, 2020
Twitter for the first time on Tuesday labeled two of Trump’s tweets, on the increasingly contentious topic of mail-in voting, with fact-check notices, calling them misleading.
Trump had tweeted — without any evidence — that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a “Rigged Election” this November.
On Thursday, Trump signed an order seeking to strip social media giants like Twitter of legal immunity for content on their platforms. The executive order calls on government regulators to evaluate if online platforms should be eligible for liability protection for content posted by their millions of users.
If enforced, the action would upend decades of precedent and treat internet platforms as “publishers” potentially liable for user-generated content.
Critics said Trump has no authority to regulate private internet operators or change the law known as Section 230 which backers say has allowed online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to flourish. Critics called the move a dangerous effort by the government to regulate online speech.
While the Trump order would not prevent platforms from moderating content, it could open them up to a flood of lawsuits from anyone who claims to be harmed by content posted online.
A wider debate has long been underway on the power that social media companies wield and what responsibility they bear for posts that are misleading or hurtful.
Internet services like Twitter and Facebook have been struggling to root out misinformation, while at the same time keeping their platforms open to users.
Khamenei was panned last week for sharing a poster showing people celebrating at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem after apparently capturing it from Israel as a Palestinian flag is raised over the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “Palestine Will Be Free. The final solution: Resistance until referendum,” the text on the poster says.
After Israeli and American leaders accused him of encouraging genocide — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “echoing Hitler’s call for genocide” — Khamenei tweeted that he seeks Israel’s destruction but not the annihilation of all Jews.
On Sunday, he again used the platform to call for “eliminating Israel.”
The enemies misinterpret the Islamic Republic’s idea of “eliminating Israel”. Eliminating Israel does not mean eliminating Jewish people. We are not #Antisemitic; Jews live in peace in Iran. Eliminating Israel represents elimination of the imposed Zionist regime. pic.twitter.com/4uKDxcccJI
— Khamenei TV (@Khamenei_tv) May 24, 2020
The regime has defended the tweets, saying the messages are not anti-Semitic, since the calls have been for destroying only Israel and not all Jews.
Farkash-Hacohen, a member of the security cabinet, said that Twitter’s own company policies ban the propagation of anti-Semitism, support of terror groups and calls for genocide.
“The company’s Hateful Conduct Policy stipulates that a user ‘may not promote violence against, or directly attack, or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religious affiliation… or calls for mass murder,’” her office said.
In the past, Israel has managed to have Twitter ban only Israelis from seeing tweets from terror groups, including Gaza rulers Hamas.
Iran is openly sworn to Israel’s destruction and financially supports terrorist groups, like Hezbollah and Hamas, committed to this aim.