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Twitter/X removes verified status of Iranian state media accounts

The move followed a report suggesting X may be violating US sanctions by offering paid services to sanctioned Iranian organizations.
Blue and gold check marks were removed from Press TV's X account.

The social media giant X has removed the verified status of Iranian state media accounts amid potential legal issues, prompting criticism from the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian state-run Press TV reported on Thursday that X, formerly known as Twitter, removed blue and gold check marks from its account, as well as the accounts of other state media outlets including Tasnim and the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Gold and blue check marks on X signify accounts that pay, with the gold reserved for official organizations. Many international media outlets have the gold check mark. The accounts for Press TV, the Islamic Republic News Agency, Tasnim and other Iranian state media outlets did not have any check marks on Thursday.

The Wayback Machine internet archive showed that Press TV had a gold check mark as of December 2023.

Press TV reported the move was made “under Israel lobby pressure.”

The DC-based Tech Transparency Project released a report on Wednesday stating X was “providing premium, paid services” to accounts affiliated with the Iranian government. The project named Press TV in the report, noting that the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Press TV, Tasnim and affiliated outlets in September of last year. 

Spokespeople for X did not respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

Why it matters: According to the US Treasury Department, the sanctions “generally prohibit all dealings by US persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.”

When X was known as Twitter, it offered verification status for free. Billionaire Elon Musk bought the platform in 2022 and subsequently began charging for the blue check mark. The move raises legal questions, according to Tech Transparency Project.

“For years, Twitter, as X was previously known, allowed US-sanctioned individuals and entities to use free accounts on the platform, an arrangement that some legal experts said was permissible under US sanctions law,” read the report. “But by providing a premium, paid service to sanctioned entities, X may be raising new legal issues.”

Know more: X’s move follows that of Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, removing the accounts of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, last week. Khameini, who has called for violence against Israel on social media, was booted for violating Meta’s policies, a spokesperson told Al-Monitor.