What just happened? Twitter has hidden a tweet that appears to have come from or on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, as the tweet breached their policies on inciting violence. But many users are calling the move hypocritical, given Twitter’s previously stated policy of not removing ‘news-worthy’ posts made by country leaders.
On Thursday, Twitter account @khamenei_ir posted that “Imam Khomeini’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable.” The ‘verdict’ in question was a death sentence – a fatwa – being placed on Rushdie for ‘blasphemy’ following the publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
The @khamenei_ir account isn’t verified with Twitter’s blue tick, but it does have over half a million followers and displays no signs of being a parodic or satirical account.
Fellow tweeters reported the post to Twitter, and on Friday the platform confirmed to Buzzfeed that the offending tweet had been hidden, explaining that “It's against our rules to make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people."
Reactions to the move were typically divided – some thought it was a positive step while others said hiding the tweet didn’t go far enough and the account should be suspended. But many also pointed to what they viewed as inconsistency on Twitter’s part when it comes to implementing their stated policies.
Many users have sought to draw parallels between the Khamenei tweet and those of Donald Trump. The U.S. president is known for his prolific use of Twitter, and people have long complained about his posts allegedly containing ‘hateful’ or threatening statements.
But in January 2018 Twitter released a blog post stating they would not remove tweets from the world leaders because “blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.” It’s this blog post that is fuelling much of the ire towards Twitter’s actions.
According to Twitter’s policies, the @khamenei_ir account will be in ‘read-only’ mode until the offending tweet has been deleted by the account owner.