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Twitter hides tweet that appears to be from Iran's supreme leader

Twitter said the tweet violated its rules against making threats of violence or wishing for the death of a person.


Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco.

James Martin/CNET

Twitter said Friday that it hid a tweet that appears to be from the account of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei for violating its rules against making violent threats or wishing for the death of a person.

The flagged tweet, which still pops up in Google search results, references a decision in 1989 from the Supreme Leader of Iran at the time that called for the killing of British-Indian author Salman Rushdie following the release of his controversial novel "The Satanic Verses." The novel sparked protests from Muslims who accused Rushdie of blasphemy. 

"Imam Khomeini's verdict regarding Salman Rushdie is based on divine verses and just like divine verses, it is solid and irrevocable," the tweet stated. Some Twitter users complained the tweet incited murder.

When Twitter determines that a user violates its rules, the company doesn't allow the user to tweet again unless he or she removes the offending tweet. The user can also appeal Twitter's decision. In the meantime, Twitter replaces the tweet with a notice that mentions that it's unavailable to users of its site. 

That's what happened to the account @khamenei_ir, which isn't verified on Twitter but mentions that the account is for regular updates and news about Iran's supreme leader. The account has more than 545,000 followers. Khamenei didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Rushdie couldn't be immediately reached. 

BuzzFeed, which reported earlier about the hidden tweet, said it's unclear if the account holder deleted the tweet. The account hasn't tweeted though since Thursday.

Twitter's decision raised questions about whether the company was enforcing its rules fairly. The company has faced calls before to suspend President Donald Trump from its platform over allegations of hate speech.

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey said in an interview via tweets this week that the company considers whether tweets are newsworthy or of public interest but mentioned that the rules don't extend to all public figures by default.