As Iranian Americans and Europeans continue to stand in solidarity with Iranian protesters calling for the fall of the Islamic Republic of Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic morality police over her hijab wear last year, pro-Iranian democratic groups like the National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI) are raising awareness over the suspension of Iranian human rights activists and anti-Islamic Republic groups on Twitter and other social media apps.
In a letter to Twitter CEO Elon Musk, NUFDI’s Engagement Director, Alireza Nader, stated that the organization is “extremely concerned” by the current mass suspension of “Persian-language Twitter accounts.”
According to Nader, the suspended accounts consist of “anti-regime, pro-democracy dissidents who often use pseudonyms out of fear of retribution by the Islamic Republic for their digital activism.”
Speaking to The Foreign Desk, Nader explained that hundreds of accounts appear to have been “suspended, especially accounts that back Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi.”
“NUFDI suspects it could be due to Twitter’s algorithms, but the Islamic Republic could be behind these suspensions, as well as groups opposed to the patriotic democratic movement in Iran,” Nader told The Foreign Desk.
NUFDI’s Director Engagement Director noted that from March 20-25, hundreds of Twitter accounts by individuals opposing Iran’s regime faced suspension for alleged violation of Twitter’s “violent speech policy,” which outlines that an individual may “not share abusive content, harass someone, or encourage other people to do so.”
The letter to Musk explained that after inspecting the Tweets, officials from NUFDI found that the accounts of individuals opposing the Islamic Republic do abide by the rules outlined in Twitter’s violent speech policy and that the suspension of such users was “either carried out erroneously or were not done in good faith.”
According to Nader, the moratorium on such accounts might have occurred because of “false positives for artificial bot behavior, which could be attributed to the Iranian digital activist community’s use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and pseudonymous Twitter handles.”
Nader went on to explain to Musk that Iran’s regime does not allow ordinary Iranians to use Twitter and other social media platforms, which means users within Iran must “connect to the platform via VPN and use pseudonyms in order to protect themselves from potential imprisonment, torture, and execution at the hands of the current regime.”
Towards the end of the letter, the engagement director of NUFDI provided a list of digital activities of users currently suspended and censored, available to the Twitter CEO upon request.
Nader reiterated the social media’s organization of holding itself “publicly accountable towards progress” while advocating for the values of “security, privacy, civic integrity, and the Open Internet,” having a duty to “provide detailed insight into the decision-making process that led to the sudden suspension of these dissidents as well as what we hope is the process for the reversal of the suspensions.”
Nader concluded his letter to Musk urging the Twitter CEO to “recognize the historic nature of this moment as Iranians are fighting for their freedom on the streets of cities across Iran and to uphold Twitter’s commitment to open discourse and allow these users to continue to use Twitter as one of their few remaining outlets for free expression.”
“Twitter has to investigate this immediately,” Nader told The Foreign Desk.
“We have also alerted our contacts in the U.S. government. It is outrageous that the dictator Khamenei can operate freely on Twitter while pro-democracy activists get shut down,” he said.
On Twitter, many Iranian American users praised the letter, thanking NUFDI for their efforts to stand with the Iranian people and their movement to overthrow the Islamic Republic and establish a new and democratic regime.
In Iran, protests continue throughout major cities, with protesters calling for the death of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the entire regime.
Since September 2022, the government in Tehran has shut down Internet access throughout the country, preventing Iranians from showing their movement to the outside world and the repressive resistance against security forces. While international sanctions have been placed on the ayatollahs following September’s protest, the Islamic government continues to brutally crack down on peaceful Iranian citizens, arresting and executing many.