Republican senators call on Twitter to suspend Iran's Khamenei, Zarif

Republican senators call on Twitter to suspend Iran's Khamenei, Zarif
© Greg Nash

A group of Republican senators lead by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPompeo to speak to influential conservative group in Iowa Top National Security Council aide moved to Energy Department role Ted Cruz takes aim at Alabama vasectomy bill: 'Yikes' MORE (Texas) sent a letter to Twitter on Thursday asking the platform to suspend the accounts of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to comply with U.S. sanction law.

The letter to CEO Jack Dorsey argues that an executive order from last summer imposing sanctions on Khamenei and those acting on his behalf prohibits Twitter from providing services to the two Iranian officials.

Multiple accounts in different languages claim to be associated with Khamenei while Zarif has a verified account. Twitter is blocked in Iran, although residents could theoretically use virtual private networks to access the site.

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“While the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans — and Twitter should not be censoring the political speech of Americans — the Ayatollah enjoys zero protection from the United States Bill of Rights," Cruz and Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses Senate votes to rein in Trump's power to attack Iran Coronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 MORE (R-Ark.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTikTok introduces new parental controls Abortion wars flare up in Congress Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars MORE (R-Tenn.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCheese, wine importers reeling from Trump trade fight Peace Corps' sudden decision to leave China stirs blowback Lawmakers raise concerns over Russia's growing influence in Venezuela MORE (R-Fla.) wrote.

"And, as the leader of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — directly responsible for the murder of hundreds of U.S. citizens — the Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to U.S. sanctions laws," they added.

The letter was also shared with President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff MORE, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday Bloomberg proposes financial transaction tax GOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law MORE, Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Attorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself Maxine Waters: Gang members have 'more integrity' than 'street player' Trump MORE and David Anderson, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, where Twitter's headquarters are located.

Twitter declined to comment on the letter.

The platform removes accounts owned or directly affiliated with groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the State Department, but does not have a similar policy for those sanctioned by the Treasury Department.

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Twitter also reserves the right to delete accounts that break rules around inciting violence. As the senators noted in their letter, some tweets from accounts linked to Khamenei have been removed for doing so.

In 2018, the company said it would not remove accounts from world leaders.

”Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” Twitter wrote in a blog post. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”