Meta removes Instagram and Facebook accounts for Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Meta has removed Instagram and Facebook accounts run on behalf of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after criticism over his support for Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked the monthslong war still raging in the Gaza Strip, the company confirmed Friday.

Meta, based in Menlo Park, California, offered no specifics about its reasoning. However, it said it removed the accounts “for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy.”

“We do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on our platforms,” the policy states. That includes those designated as terrorists by the U.S. government.

Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Khamenei and his vast patronage network inside Iran have long been targeted by American sanctions. Khamenei himself has been targeted by U.S. sanctions since 2019 by the administration of then-President Donald Trump as tensions began to spiral in the Middle East over Trump unilaterally withdrawing America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

However, pressure has been growing on online platforms to remove Khamenei in recent years, particularly after the mass protests that followed the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest allegedly over how she wore the mandated headscarf in Iran.

Khamenei’s use of Facebook has drawn criticism in the past. The social network has been banned in Iran since its 2009 disputed presidential election and the Green Movement protests that followed. Iran began blocking Instagram and Meta’s WhatsApp messaging service after the protests over Amini's death.

Khamenei still maintains an account on X, formerly Twitter.

Khamenei and accounts associated with the supreme leader had been praising the Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage. Immediately after the attack, Khamenei backed Hamas in a speech, saying: “We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime."

Iran has provided arms and support to Hamas, though Tehran isn't believed to have directed the Oct. 7 attack. In the time since, Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has killed over 27,000 Palestinians and sparked tensions across the wider Middle East. Iranian-backed militias like Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels, also armed by Iran, have launched attacks against Israel in the time since.

Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League praised Meta's decision.

“He’s used these platforms for years to incite violent antisemitism, to legitimize militant anti-zionism and to make genocidal threats,” Greenblatt wrote online.

02/09/2024 14:17 -0500

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