After Twitter flags Trump’s tweets, will it stand up to Iran? - analysis

Many social media companies have been accused in recent years of playing a heavier handed role in controlling, manipulating or molding the content that appears on their platforms.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures as he meets a group of Iranian Air Force officers in Tehran (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gestures as he meets a group of Iranian Air Force officers in Tehran
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Social media giant Twitter has labeled two tweets by US President Donald Trump, as being “unsubstantiated.”
By doing so, it has waded into a thorny debate about politics and the role that social media giants should play in censoring or labeling misleading content.
This leads to questions about why Twitter has not had the same policy for the Iranian regime and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who regularly spouts extreme anti-Israel and anti-women views, some of which have been accused of being antisemitic.
Many social media companies have been accused in recent years of playing a more heavy-handed role in controlling, manipulating or molding the content that appears on their platforms.
In doing so, they opened themselves up to questions about whether they are neutral platforms or are taking an active part in various debates. For instance, social media companies came under fire for allowing political ads that are misleading.
They have been critiqued for their apparent role in spreading fake news in the past. Social media companies from Facebook to YouTube and Twitter had to take down millions of accounts linked to terrorism and extremism, such as those that fueled ISIS.
In more recent years, these companies have sought to regulate what information people see about COVID-19, apparently enforcing government guidelines as to what information was accurate.
In many cases, they appear to have also acted at the behest of authoritarian regimes. Turkey has been accused of using Twitter to expunge content by far-left Kurdish activists. On May 26, writer Palmer Luckey accused YouTube of removing content critical of China’s ruling party.
Now Twitter has been accused of labelling Trump’s tweets but not doing the same for other high-profile users, particularly dictators. Ayatollah Khamenei runs several accounts in different languages.
In English, he tweets to more than 750,000 followers. On May 22 he tweeted that “the Zionist regime is a deadly cancerous growth” that should be “uprooted and destroyed.”
This is a threat against the country of Israel and its eight million citizens.
Yet the social media giant did not label it. The same day he wrote that the UK had created Israel by “conspiring with Jewish plutocrats” and that “Britain prepared a fabrication called Zionism.” On May 17 he wrote that “Britain has always been a source of evil.” He also wrote on May 15 that “in Western culture, a woman must expose herself to men in order to be a source of pleasure…women’s nudity and exploitation for men’s pleasure led to the destruction of families and weakening of the foundation of the family in the West.”
None of these tweets were labelled as misleading, and no link to correct information about women’s rights, Jews and Israel were provided by Twitter.
This raises questions as to whether dictators, authoritarian religious extremist leaders and antisemitic rulers – who call for the destruction of other countries and push chauvinist anti-women demagoguery – get free rein on the social media platform.


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