Meta’s Oversight Board ruled Monday that the company had not removed a Facebook posting that featured the slogan “death To Khamenei” in order to criticize Iran’s leader. It said it didn’t violate a ban on violent threats.
The Meta-funded board operates independently but is supported by Meta. In a ruling, the board stated that the phrase often means “down with Khamenei”, referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Khamenei who has been leading violent crackdowns on protests nationwide in recent months.
It also asked the company to find better ways to factor such context into its content policies, and clearly define when rhetorical threats against heads were allowed.
“In the contexts of the post and the wider social, political, and linguistic situation Iran’s margbar Khamenei should be understood to mean “down with.” The board stated that it was a rhetorical, political slogan and not a credible threat.
Iran is gripped by protests since mid September, after the death of a Kurdish Iranian woman aged 22 who was detained for wearing inappropriate attire under Iran’s strict dress code.
Protests by people from all walks of society calling for the fall Iran’s ruling Theocracy have been one of the most significant challenges to the government in the Shi’ite Muslim-ruled Islamic Republic’s government since the 1979 revolution.
Meta’s handling of violence on its platforms has been a constant struggle since the unrest.
The company prohibits the use of language that encourages violence, but it aims to limit enforcement to credible threats. This leaves no doubt about when and how the rule applies.
Meta, which was created a temporary exception to allow death threats to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, wanted to give people in the region a place to vent their anger about the war.
However, it reversed the exemption days later after Reuters reported on its existence.
Meta has also been scrutinized for how it organized in the days leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6. Before the attack, phrases like “kill them all”, including calls for violence against certain U.S. politicians, were used in thousands of U.S.-based facebook groups.
In its ruling, the Oversight Board stated that “death of Khamenei” statements were different from threats made around Jan. 6. This was because politicians at the time were “clearly at danger” in the U.S context, and “death” was not a rhetorical expression in English.