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 CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: New polls show Biden leading by landslide margins Flight attendants union president: 'Absurd' the FAA has not mandated masks for passengers Trump-backed House candidate leads by only 7 votes in key Texas runoff 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonConservative NYT op-ed writer resigns, alleging 'hostile work environment' Larry Hogan's hopes Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones MORE (R-Ark.), Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases The Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Tenn.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioChina sanctions Cruz, Rubio, others over Xinjiang legislation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K GOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' 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 TrumpProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Ilhan Omar: GOP response to calls for police reform 'was vicious' White House considers sweeping travel ban on members, families of the Chinese Communist Party: report MORE, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinProgressive group launches M pro-Biden ad buy targeting young voters Pelosi signals flexibility on size of renewed unemployment payments The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - In Rose Garden, Trump launches anti-Biden screed MORE, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrOusted Manhattan prosecutor Geoffrey Berman to teach at Stanford MS-13 member charged with terrorism-related offenses for first time ACLU calls for special prosecutor to investigate removal of protesters in front of White House 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.”