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Congressional Reps.’ Letter to Elon Musk: Prevent Islamic Republic Officials From Having Access to Twitter

Claudia L. Tenney (R-NY). house.gov
Claudia L. Tenney (R-NY). house.gov

Recently on Twitter, several United States Congressional Representatives led by representative Claudia L. Tenney (NY-22), sent a letter to Twitter’s newest potential owner, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, to ensure that the social media company acts against the Islamic Republic’s officials and their terrorist apparatuses like the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. 

In the letter, the representatives stressed to Musk that Twitter complies with U.S law, while restoring itself as a platform that protects and champions free speech, given its tumultuous behavior of the past few years. The letter from members of Congress against the Iranian regime officials highlights the hope that many share that Musk will uphold freedom of speech, silencing terrorists. 

The members of Congress praised the Tesla CEO for acquiring Twitter, stating that it “presents the opportunity for transformational change of the organization.” The officials then went on to say that this purchase presents Musk with an opportunity to correct a longstanding concern regarding the platform’s provision of digital services to “sanctioned entities, like those affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, who are responsible for the murder of American citizens.” The congressional members addressed the fact that because the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, was sanctioned in 2019 through Executive Order (E.O.) 13876, individuals and other entities cannot provide goods or services that benefit his activities.

Representative Tenney and other co-sponsors argue that Twitter is clearly providing the Supreme Leader with a beneficial service, directly violating E.O. 13876, and advancing the foreign policy objectives of the Islamic Republic. The letter gives numerous examples of IRGC officials and the Supreme Leader posting tweets that glorify deceased antisemitic leaders, promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories, and calling for the eradication of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. One of the main concerns that members of Congress address involve the web traffic and monetization by Twitter from Ali Khamenei’s 1.6 million followers.

According to officials, the Supreme Leader and many other IRGC affiliates garner thousands of likes and views on videos that promote violent action against U.S. and Israeli officials. The letter also asks Musk to investigate and consider Twitter’s activity of selling user data related to any of the Supreme Leader’s accounts. The representatives note the possibility of coordination between the Iranian regime accounts and Twitter employees. Representative Tenney and others note that should these types of accounts “engage with Twitter support services to address technical questions, report user, or flag content,” this would be a “troubling development.”

Ever since the creation of social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms, Islamic Republic officials ranging from the foreign minister, IRGC, and even the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has used such platforms to not only spread their antisemitic or anti-American views, but call for violent action against Israel, the U.S., and members of the U.S. government. Many legal and technology analysts point out that Iranian officials like Khamenei and others who continuously post on Twitter calling for action against Israel or U.S. officials have violated the company’s rules prohibiting violent calls to action but their complaints have fallen on deaf ears at Twitter.

Instead, Twitter and its executives have taken upon themselves to ban former President Donald Trump and many other Conservatives and moderate Liberal users for what they describe as “inciting violence” or spreading “disinformation.” In the eyes of the public, Twitter has become a social media platform that caters to hard-core Left-leaning activists and Democratic party officials, banning individuals whom they deem “hateful” and “racist,” while allowing terrorist leaders from Iran and its proxies to incite violence against groups, individuals, and countries. Whenever a terrorist action against Israel by Hamas occurs, members of the Iranian government are quick to take to Twitter and Facebook to call for more violence against the Jewish state.

In July 2020, Twitter’s head policy for the Nordic countries and Israel, told a Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, that the current and prior tweets in which Khamenei calls for Israel’s destruction does not violate the company’s rules against hate speech and indicated that they are considered “saber-rattling.” When pressed on whether the Supreme Leader’s call for genocide on Twitter was okay, but labeling comments from people who discuss political situations in certain countries is not okay, Twitter’s official admitted that the tweets from the Supreme Leader and other officials against Jews does not violate the company’s policy. While the U.S. has continued to place sanctions on Islamic Republic officials and others, Twitter has deflected and ignored demands from many lawmakers to prevent Islamic officials from inciting actual violence.

Now, with Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, many members of Congress and individuals see the potential for Twitter to change its behavior on this issue and finally crack down on the Islamic Republic’s voice on Twitter. Musk has stated that he values free and honest conversations and believes that Twitter needs fundamental change.

Human rights groups and Iranian freedom groups like Iran Americans for Liberty (IAL) praised Representative Tenney’s leadership and similarly called for Elon Musk to heed the representatives and review this situation to ensure that Twitter does not allow Khamenei and other Iranian officials to voice their terrorists’ actions online as per U.S. laws.

"We applaud Representative Tenney for once again showing the Iranian-American community why she is our greatest ally in Washington D.C,” said IAL executive director Bryan Leib. 

"The time is now for Twitter to heed the call from these lawmakers for their organization to comply with U.S. law that bars U.S. companies from aiding and abetting U.S. sanctioned Iranian individuals and entities."

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