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Twitter suspends Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei's official accounts

The English, Farsi and Arabic accounts were suspended [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 31 March, 2020

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni's official Arabic-language account has been suspended by Twitter without explanation.
Twitter suspended multiple accounts belonging to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reports confirmed on Monday, noting two of the three were later reinstated.

Khamenei’s official English, Farsi and Arabic accounts went offline without explanation on the popular social media sites, which is often used by politicians as a platform for issuing semi-official public statements.

The English and Farsi account both reappeared shortly after the suspension, although the Arabic platform remains offline.

It is unclear why the move was taken against the official Iranian accounts, though it follows similar actions taken by Twitter.

In July, several Iranian state media outlets were suspended for allegedly harassing people linked to the Baha'i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran, Twitter said.

"Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter rules," read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets' accounts.

Mehr news agency, which is close to Iran's moderate conservative political faction, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked, after it reported on the seizure of the Stena Impero tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Similar action was taken against the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists' Club.

Mehr also noted that its Mehr Diplomacy account, which publishes analysis and interviews on foreign policy, was also offline.

Another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hardline public speaker.

The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private networks (VPN) to bypass censorship.

Twitter has also taken aim at the Iranian-allied Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

The television station of the powerful Shia movement Hezbollah in November slammed Twitter for suspending most of its accounts.

Affiliated TV channel Al-Manar accused the US-based social media platform of giving in to "political pressures".

"Account suspended," one such Arabic-language account, @almanarnews.

"There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organisations and violent extremist groups," a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The accounts in English, French and Spanish were also not available, but the Twitter handles of Al-Manar’s Breaking News page and specific television shows seemed to be functioning.

The Twitter account of the Palestinian Al-Quds News Network was also suspended, despite being verified by the social media network.

Just a month later, Twitter announced it had closed down approximately 6,000 accounts deemed part of a significant "state-backed information operation" which originated in Saudi Arabia.

The social networking giant reported that the accounts amplified "messages favourable to Saudi authorities", targeting discussions related to Saudi Arabia and those which furthered its geopolitical interests

Through "inauthentic engagement tactics" such as aggressively favouriting tweets, retweeting and replying, the hostile activity amounted to a major violation of the site's "platform manipulation policies", Twitter wrote in a public blog post. 

The accounts suspended were at the centre of a wider network of nearly 90,000 accounts that were engaged in "spammy behaviour".

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