SAN FRANCISCO — Meta on Thursday said it had removed the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for violating its content policy.
“We have removed these accounts for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations & Individuals policy,” a Meta spokesperson told AFP.
Though Meta did not mention the Israel-Hamas war, the company has been under pressure to ban the Iranian leader ever since the October 7 attack by the Tehran-backed terror group Hamas on southern Israel, in which Palestinian terrorists slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253 hostages into Gaza.
Khamenei, in power in Iran for 35 years, praised the killing spree to his millions of followers, tweeting in broken Hebrew to Israelis: “You brought this calamity upon yourselves.”
Iran, which does not recognize Israel and whose leaders have openly called for its destruction, was one of the first countries to hail the Hamas assault.
“Dictatorial Zionists, you cannot recover from the defeat of October 7,” Khamenei said three days after the terror onslaught.
Khamenei has continued to express support for Hamas over the past four months of war, and has praised the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, which like Hamas also are supported by Iran.
Israel’s retaliation to October 7 — which Khamenei called “crimes” — “will not be forgotten even after the Zionist regime is destroyed by the grace of God,” he tweeted last month.
“In an effort to prevent and disrupt real-world harm, we do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on our platforms,” says the policy on which Meta based its decision to remove the accounts.
It also says it will “remove glorification, support and representation of various dangerous organizations and individuals.”
Instagram and Facebook are banned in Iran, but Iranians use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to evade restrictions and access prohibited websites or apps, including the US-owned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Khamenei had five million followers on Instagram.
On X, formerly Twitter, Khamenei’s accounts are still active. An executive at the company told Israeli lawmakers in 2020 that Khamenei’s calls for Israel’s destruction do not breach its rules against hate speech, suggesting they are mere “foreign policy saber-rattling.”
Tehran has made support for the Palestinian cause a centerpiece of its foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and has come to actively back Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, in addition to its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.
Israel and the US have accused Iran of playing a critical role in the October 7 massacre, a charge it has denied though one official said the attack on Israel was in revenge for the 2020 assassination of IRGC Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
Hamas then denied that claim, issuing a statement that said all the “actions” of October 7 were “carried out by the Palestinian resistance.”