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'Death to Khamenei' slogan to be allowed on Facebook, Meta says

Meta’s decision came amid ongoing anti-government protests in Iran, and contrasts with its ruling on calls for Russian president Putin’s death.
Policemen gather with images of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a protest against defamatory cartoons depicting him published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, outside the French embassy in Iran's capital Tehran on January 8, 2023. (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

The parent company of Facebook, Meta, decided Monday to allow posts that call for the death of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

What happened: A July 2022 Persian-language Facebook post that read “death to Khamenei” was later removed when Meta determined it violated its violence and incitement community standard. 

Meta’s Oversight Board, which is funded by Meta but acts independently, determined Monday that the phrase can be interpreted to mean “down with Khamenei.” The board decided to allow the post in order to “better protect political speech in critical situations, such as that in Iran,” according to a press release. 

Why it matters: Iran has been engulfed in anti-government protests since September of last year in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten to death by religious police for wearing a loose hijab. 

Facebook has long been blocked for civilians in Iran, along with Twitter and various other social media sites. Instagram and WhatsApp, which are also owned by Meta, were allowed until the Islamic Republic restricted them in response to the protests. Many Iranians abroad regularly use the platforms to post about news in the country, however. 

The move resembles Meta’s policies during the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. At the start of the war, Meta amended its hate speech rules to allow phrases such as “death to the Russian invaders.” Facebook later clarified that such posts would only be allowed in the context of the Russian military invading Ukraine. 

The company also said at the time that death threats against Russian President Vladimir Putin were not allowed. This contrasts with the decision to allow calls for Khamenei’s death. 

Know more: Facebook has taken action against Iranian government-linked accounts in the past for allegedly manipulative behavior. 

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