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Twitter limits Khamenei account over tweet threatening Salman Rushdie

Andrew Blake The Washington TimesFebruary 16, 2019

Twitter took action Friday against an account connected to Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, for posting a message threatening author Salman Rushdie.

The account, @khamenei_ir, was temporarily banned from further tweeting until it deletes a recent post referencing the fatwa issued by the ayatollah’s predecessor against Mr. Rushdie in 1989, BuzzFeed News first reported.

“Imam Khomeini’s verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable,” the account tweeted Thursday.

A spokesperson for Twitter pointed to the platform’s terms of service when reached by The Washington Times over the weekend.

“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,” said the Twitter spokesperson.

Accounts deemed in violation of Twitter’s rules are prohibited from tweeting until they voluntarily remove whatever post or posts that prompted action, according to the platform’s policies.

The @khamenei_ir account has not posted since Thursday, and the user did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the former supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, effectively called for the death of Mr. Rushdie by issuing a fatwa against the author following the publication of his 1988 novel, “The Satanic Verses.”

Created in March 2009, the unverified Twitter account in the current leader’s name posts “regular updates and news about Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei,” according to the user’s biography. It is followed more than a half-million Twitter users, and The Associated Press previously reported that it is believed to be run by Iranian super leader’s office on his behalf.

Twitter has repeatedly faced criticism in the past for failing to take action against tweets posted by President Trump likely in violation of the platform’s policies, including messages threatening media outlets, foreign leaders and other targets of his routine social media rants.

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” Twitter explained in a blog post last year. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

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