At this rate all Iranian media sources and official accounts could soon be banned in the West, leaving journalists without a clue of what Tehran’s leaders actually think, and without official statements. The semi-official Fars news English website was knocked offline two weeks ago by US Treasury order (the international server host confirmed, making Fars transfer its site hosting to within Iran), but the latest in a growing list of “purges” whether on YouTube or other platforms.
And now US senators are leading the charge to get Iran’s leaders banned from Twitter, as The Hill reports:
A group of Republican senators lead by Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) sent a letter to Twitter on Thursday asking the platform to suspend the accounts of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to comply with U.S. sanction law.
The letter to CEO Jack Dorsey argues that an executive order from last summer imposing sanctions on Khamenei and those acting on his behalf prohibits Twitter from providing services to the two Iranian officials.
Ironically, Twitter itself is blocked inside Iran on order of Tehran authorities, notwithstanding Iranian residents often easily getting around these restraints.
Foreign Minister Zarif is actually verified on Twitter despite being personally sanctioned by the US Treasury, and regularly uses it to issue statements to the world in reaction to White House policies or in response to President Trump’s words on Iran.
The hawkish group of Republican senators including Cruz, Tom Cotton (Ark.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) wrote in the letter to Twitter: “While the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans — and Twitter should not be censoring the political speech of Americans — the Ayatollah enjoys zero protection from the United States Bill of Rights.”
“And, as the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of U.S. citizens — the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to U.S. sanctions laws,” they added.
Iran’s top diplomat often directly engages President Trump on Twitter:
To be better informed, he can read my entire interview (in English) https://t.co/eZR8NzuWXV
Too many words? Then just read this: pic.twitter.com/URkbUll49P
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 26, 2020
It was also sent to the White House, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – who previously enforced bans on Iranian media entities – and top administration officials.
The letter was first reported Friday, and Twitter did not immediately issue a response. But the US company is not expected to take action, given it announced in 2018 it would not suspend accounts of world leaders, given it “would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” according to a prior official company statement.
“It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions,” Twitter said at the time.