Meta’s Oversight Board tells company to allow ‘death to Khamenei’ posts

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The board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, said in a decision that the phrase is often used to mean “down with Khamenei” in reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was leading a violent crackdown on protests throughout the country. recent months.

It also urged the company to develop better ways of including such context in its content policies and clearly outline when rhetorical threats against heads of state were allowed.

“In the context of the post, and the wider social, political and linguistic situation in Iran, ‘marg bar Khamenei’ should be understood as ‘down with’. It is a rhetorical and political slogan, not a credible threat,” the board wrote.

Iran has been gripped by demonstrations since mid-September, following the death in custody of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman arrested for wearing “inappropriate clothing” under the country’s strict women’s dress code .

The protests, in which demonstrators from all walks of life called for the fall of Iran’s ruling theocracy, posed one of the biggest challenges to the government of the Muslim-led Shi’ite Islamic Republic since the revolution of 1979.

The unrest created a now-familiar problem for Meta, which has repeatedly wavered in its handling of violent political rhetoric on its platforms.

The company bans language that incites “serious violence” but aims to avoid excessive relaxation by limiting enforcement to credible threats, leaving ambiguity about when and how the rule applies.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, for example, Meta introduced a temporary exemption to allow calls for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the aim of giving space to users in the region to express their their anger about the war.

However, days later the exemption was reversed after Reuters reported its existence.

When she also faced scrutiny over how her platforms were used to organize in the run-up to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Phrases such as “kill them all” appeared in thousands of US-based Facebook Groups before the attack, including calls for violence against specific US political leaders.

The Oversight Board said in its decision that the “death to Khamenei” statements were different from threats sent around January 6, as the politicians were “clearly at risk” then ” in the context of the United States and “death to” was not a rhetorical statement in English.

(Reporting by Katie Paul in Palo Alto, California; Editing by Sandra Maler)

By Katie Paul

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