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Iran Leader's Facebook, Instagram Banned by Meta for Policy Violations

Photo: khamenei.ir/AFP/File

On February 8, Meta, the parent company overseeing Facebook and Instagram, took action against Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announcing the ban of his accounts for violating the platform's "content policy." This decision came after the repeated infringement of Meta's "Dangerous Organisations & Individuals policy," according to a spokesperson. The Facebook and Instagram accounts attributed to Khamenei were flagged as part of a larger network involved in "inauthentic activity" and disseminating misleading information, as reported by news website Al Bawaba.

Attempting to access Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's Instagram account now displays a "this page isn't available" message, indicating the account's removal by Meta. The tech conglomerate reportedly took down around 200 Facebook accounts, 125 Instagram accounts, nine groups, and 29 pages linked to the Iranian network, according to Al Bawaba's report.

While Meta did not explicitly mention the Israel-Hamas war as a reason for the ban, there has been mounting pressure on the company to take action against Iran's Supreme Leader, particularly after the October 7 attack orchestrated by the Palestinian group supported by Iran. Meta's policy, forming the basis for this decision, explicitly states that organizations or individuals with a "violent mission" or engagement in violence are not allowed on its platforms, aiming to prevent real-world harm.

Iran had previously praised the October attack against Israel, leading to heightened tensions. Despite Instagram and Facebook being officially prohibited in Iran, citizens can use virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass restrictions and access blocked websites or apps.

Interestingly, on an alternative platform denoted as "X," Khamenei's accounts remain active. Additionally, a statement from 2020 revealed that Meta had informed Israeli lawmakers that Khamenei's calls for Israel's destruction did not violate the platform's rules against hate speech, considering them as mere "foreign policy sabre-rattling."

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with five million followers on Instagram, has persistently voiced support for Hamas and commended attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who, like Hamas, receive backing from Iran. In a tweet last month, Khamenei asserted that Israel's counteroffensive in the Gaza Strip following the October 7 attack would be remembered even after the "Zionist regime is destroyed by the grace of God." The situation underscores the complexities of regulating global social media platforms, especially when they intersect with geopolitical conflicts and leaders' statements.

Feb. 9, 2024 4:49 p.m. 1434

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