Dubai, United Arab Emirates – In a move that has attracted attention and criticism, Meta Platforms Inc. has taken down Instagram and Facebook accounts associated with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The decision comes as a response to the Supreme Leader's support for Hamas and their attack on Israel on October 7, which triggered the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. Meta Platforms Inc., based in Menlo Park, Calif., did not provide specific details regarding their reasoning but cited a violation of their Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy.
The company's policy explicitly states that it does not allow organizations or individuals with violent missions or engaged in violence to have a presence on their platforms. This extends to those designated as terrorists by the U.S. government. At present, Iran's mission to the United Nations has not commented on the matter.
It is worth noting that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his extensive network of supporters within Iran have long been the target of American sanctions. These sanctions were intensified in 2019, particularly under the administration of then-President Donald Trump, as tensions escalated in the Middle East following the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
Recent years have seen increasing pressure on online platforms to remove accounts associated with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This push gained momentum after widespread protests erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022. Amini's arrest, allegedly related to her choice of attire and specifically how she wore the mandated headscarf in Iran, sparked outrage and ignited mass demonstrations.
Meta Platforms Inc.'s decision to remove Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's social media accounts reflects a broader effort to address platforms' responsibility in handling content associated with individuals or organizations promoting violence or engaging in violent activities.
Khamenei's Use of Social Media Platforms Draws Criticism
Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, has been under fire for his controversial use of social media platforms. While Facebook has been banned in Iran since the disputed presidential election in 2009 and subsequent protests known as the "Green Movement," Khamenei still maintains an account on X (formerly Twitter).
Recently, Khamenei and accounts associated with him have faced criticism for their support of Hamas and their praise for the group's attack on Israel. This attack resulted in the death of 1,200 people and the hostage situation of 250 others. In a speech following the attack, Khamenei openly endorsed Hamas, stating, "We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime."
While Iran has been known to provide arms and support to Hamas, they are not believed to have directly orchestrated this specific attack on October 7. Nevertheless, Israel's subsequent retaliation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has led to the deaths of over 27,000 Palestinians and increased tensions in the wider Middle East. Other Iranian-backed militias, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen, both armed by Iran, have also launched attacks against Israel in recent times.
Meta's decision to take action regarding Khamenei's incendiary online behavior has received praise from Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League. Greenblatt commended Meta for addressing Khamenei's use of these platforms over the years, which have been characterized by the incitement of violent antisemitism, the legitimization of militant anti-Zionism, and even genocidal threats.
The ongoing controversy surrounding Khamenei's social media presence raises concerns about the dissemination of harmful ideologies and the potential for further violence in the region.