Meta’s supervisory board on Monday reversed the company’s decision to remove a Facebook post that used the slogan “death to Khamenei” to criticize the Iranian leader, saying it did not violate a rule prohibiting violent threats.
The board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, said in a ruling that the phrase is often used to mean “down with Khamenei” in reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who led a violent crackdown on protests nationwide in recent months.
He also urged the company to develop better ways to take that context into account in its content policies and to clearly define when rhetorical threats against heads of state were allowed.
“In the context of the post and the broader social, political and linguistic situation in Iran, ‘marg bar Khamenei’ should be understood as ‘down’. It is a rhetorical and political slogan, not a credible threat,” said writes the board.
Iran has been plagued by protests since mid-September, following the death in custody of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman arrested for wearing ‘inappropriate attire’ under the country’s strict dress code for women. .
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 Shia Muslim-ruled Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
The unrest has created a now familiar conundrum for Meta, which has repeatedly wavered in its handling of violent political rhetoric on its platforms.
The company prohibits language that incites “serious violence”, but aims to avoid excess by limiting the application to credible threats, leaving ambiguity as to when and how the rule applies.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, for example, Meta introduced a temporary exemption to allow death calls to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an attempt to give users in the region a space to express their anger at the war.
However, days later he rescinded the exemption after Reuters reported its existence.
Meta has also come under scrutiny over how its platforms have been used to organize in the run-up to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. Phrases such as “kill ’em all” appeared in thousands of US-based Facebook groups before the attack, including calls for violence against specific US political leaders.
The Oversight Council said in its ruling that ‘death to Khamenei’ statements differed from threats posted around Jan. 6, because politicians were then ‘clearly in danger’ in the American context and ‘death to’ was not. a rhetorical statement in English.

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