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Iran foreign minister says Meta banning Khamenei was 'illegal and unethical'

Hossein Amir Abdollahian tells MEE the 'Silicon Valley Empire' wants to censor pro-Palestinian voices
Hossein Amir Abdollahian at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 26 February (AFP/Gabriel Monnet)
Hossein Amir Abdollahian at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 26 February (AFP/Gabriel Monnet)

Iran's foreign minister has denounced the decision by Meta to suspend the Instagram accounts of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as an "insult".

In comments exclusively made to Middle East Eye, Hossein Amir Abdollahian accused the "Silicon Valley Empire" of trying to censor a prominent supporter of the Palestinian cause.

He branded the suspension "illegal and unethical" and said it was indicative of the "collapse of morality and the moral system of the world".

"Blocking the media accounts of the supreme leader of the revolution is not only a violation of freedom of speech but also an insult to millions of followers of his positions and news," Amir Abdollahian told MEE.

"The mottos of freedom of expression by some western claimants are hollow and showy slogans and a cover for their illegitimate political goals."

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Silicon Valley giant Meta owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, among other social media platforms.

Last month, it removed Instagram and Facebook accounts belonging to Khamenei.

His Persian-language Instagram account had more than 5.1 million followers, while his English one had over 204,000.

“We have removed these accounts for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations & Individuals policy," a Meta spokesperson told Middle East Eye following the accounts' removal.

Under the policy, Meta removes "organisations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence" from its platforms.

Pro-Israel and Iranian opposition groups have long criticised social media companies for allowing Khamenei, 84, to have accounts on their platforms. This scrutiny has only increased following the 7 October Hamas-led attack on Israel and the war on Gaza.

Amir Abdollahian said Meta's actions were part of a wider campaign by American social media platforms to censor pro-Palestinian voices.

'The Silicon Valley Empire cannot prevent this voice from reaching the public opinion of the world'

- Hossein Amir Abdollahian

"Ayatollah Khamenei is the most prominent supporter of the oppressed people of Palestine and Gaza in the world, and the Silicon Valley Empire cannot prevent this voice from reaching the public opinion of the world," he said.

MEE asked Meta for comment, but said they had nothing to add to their comments in February.

Khamenei, who has been in power since the death of his predecessor Ruhollah Khomenei in 1989, previously had accounts suspended on Instagram in 2019, but they were later restored.

Last year, Meta caused controversy by saying it would allow the popular anti-government slogan "Death to Khamenei" to be posted on its platforms.

The move came in the wake of mass protests across Iran over the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini following her arrest for allegedly wearing her hijab "inappropriately" and violating the country's strict dress codes for women.

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have been banned in Iran for many years, though users have found ways around the restrictions using VPNs.

Despite the ban, several Iranian officials - including Khamenei - have had accounts on the platforms.

In 2021 Meta banned then-US president Donald Trump from having accounts on its platforms, reinstating him last year.

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