February 19, The Iran Project – In a politically-motivated move, Twitter temporarily banned @khamenei_ir account from further tweeting until it deleted a tweet referencing the 1989 fatwa against British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie. The move drew the criticism of Twitter users and journalists who saw it as a sign of the social media giant’s double standard policy.
Critics said Twitter’s action took place while it had previously used a newsworthiness standard to defend its refusal to apply abuse and harassment rules to US President Donald Trump’s account.
Twitter confirmed on Friday Feb. 10 that it had enforced its policy against allegedly violent threats of violence on the platform when it made inaccessible a tweet by @khamenei_ir, an account that is widely associated with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
In a tweet, the account @khamenei_ir that provides “regular updates and news about Ayatollah Khamenei, marked the anniversary of the 1989 “fatwa” against Rushdie.
The February 14, 1989″ fatwa”, a non-binding legislative opinion in Islamic law, was issued by tthe then-leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. It instructed Muslims to execute Rushdie, who was accused of blasphemy over his controversial novel “The Satanic Verses”.
“Imam Khomeini’s fatwa regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable,” the account tweeted Thursday.
Meanwhile, many saw the move as disproportionate, with one user saying that “no direct threat was made”.
Denouncing the move, a senior staff of @khamenei_ir ‘s office wrote on his Twitter page:
“Twitter’s recent move to limit @Khamenei_ir accounts despite 5 emails acknowledging that there has been no violation of TOS, is an obvious politically-motivated move influenced by intl. pressure groups. Imam Khomeini’s historic fatwa cannot be censored.”
Twitter has been repeatedly criticized for its selective approach to the treatment of calls for violence and hate speech. The debate has been fueled by a series of warmongering statements tweeted by Trump, in which he threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before” in an all-caps tweet.