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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Twitter temporarily suspended several accounts belonging to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. The message over Mr Khameini's English account said "Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter rules".
Mr Khameini's accounts in English, Arabic, Persian and Urdu were all suspended, but his English and Persian accounts were later restored. There has been no official explanation for the reason behind the temporary suspension.
In the past, Iranian activists have repeatedly called for the accounts of regime officials to be blocked while Iranians are denied access to the platform. In November, the hashtag TwitterBanKhamenei went viral after the state shut off internet access in an attempt to clamp down on protests sweeping the country.
In February, a group of Republican senators in the US sent a letter to Twitter calling for the platform to suspend the accounts of Mr Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to comply with US sanction law.
"... as the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of US citizens — the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to US sanctions laws," the letter, which was signed by Texas senator Ted Cruz among others, said.
Twitter removes accounts accused of promoting terrorism. In the second half of 2018, more than 166,000 accounts were suspended as the company came under increasing pressure from regulators and governments to tackle extremist content.
In 2018, Twitter said it would not remove the accounts of world leaders. "Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate," the company said in a blog post.
In recent weeks, social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have announced new regulatory measures as concerns mount of the spread of disinformation surrounding the new coronavirus outbreak.
This month, Twitter announced that it was broadening the company's definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from health authorities.
This includes "denial of global or local health authority recommendations to decrease someone’s likelihood of exposure to Covid-19 with the intent to influence people into acting against recommended guidance," Twitter said in a statement.
Posts by a number of world leaders have fallen short of the guidelines, including US President Donald Trump, whose retweet of a cropped video showing rival presidential candidate Joe Biden was labelled "manipulated media" by Twitter and pegged with a warning on Facebook.
On Sunday, Twitter and Facebook removed posts shared by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that contained misinformation about cures for coronavirus.
The videos reportedly show Mr Bolsonaro praising the use of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — which has not yet been approved in clinical tests for treating the virus — and advocating an end to social distancing and isolation in the country.
"Twitter recently announced the expansion of its rules to cover content that could be against public health information provided by official sources and could put people at greater risk of transmitting Covid-19," a spokesperson for the company said.
Updated: March 31, 2020 01:17 PM
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