October 30, 2020
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran questioned why some countries have criminalized Holocaust denial on Wednesday in an uncensored post to Twitter, which is facing scrutiny for how the social media platform has censored posts, like a recent New York Post article on the Biden family’s business and political connections.
“Why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust?” Khamenei tweeted Wednesday. “Why should anyone who writes about such doubts be imprisoned while insulting the Prophet (pbuh) is allowed?”
Committee Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., asked Dorsey why Khamenei’s tweets “questioning the Holocaust…remain unflagged on Twitter’s platform” despite the platform’s decision to label tweets from President Trump about mail-in ballots and COVID-19 with links to more context.
Dorsey agreed that someone denying the Holocaust would be spreading misinformation but added that Twitter does not “have a policy against misinformation, we have a policy against misinformation in three categories” including manipulating media, specifically coded public health topics like COVID-19, and election interference and voter suppression.
Khamenei’s tweets about the Holocaust, nor his tweets threatening Israel or the U.S., require labels under those qualifications. But Holocaust denial is a crime in several countries, including Germany, Austria and Israel. Holocaust denial is not a crime in the United States, however.
Dorsey later defended Twitter’s stance that Khamenei’s posts are mere “saber-rattling” — a phrase Twitter officials have used to defend its decisions to keep the Iranian supreme leader’s posts visible and unlabeled.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who also called out Dorsey for leaving up the supreme leader’s tweets on Wednesday, called for an investigation into Twitter in a letter sent in May to the Justice and Treasury departments for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Cruz had sent a letter to the social media giant in February requesting that it comply with U.S. law and stop providing services to the accounts.
“Twitter sent a letter back saying their company policy was to allow as much discussion as possible, and they apparently believe they are exempt from the criminal laws of this country,” Cruz told FOX Business’ “Varney & Co.” at the time. “So today, I asked the Department of Justice to open an investigation. Those sanction laws are designed to stop U.S. companies from facilitating Iranian terror.”
Republicans argued during the hearing that Twitter’s decisions to not label tweets from Khamenei and other foreign leaders who condemn the U.S. on Twitter, such as Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lijian Zhao, represent a double standard when compared to its treatment of the president.
Democrats argued that Twitter and Facebook should be doing more to censor hate speech that could lead to violence.
Other tech and policy experts say censoring more voices is not the solution to a more open internet and that social media platforms should avoid labeling or removing posts from anyone in an effort to encourage free speech online.