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Twitter suspends Iran top leader's account over Trump threat

The image posted by the account linked to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to call for an attack on former President Trump.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Twitter said on Friday that it had permanently banned an account connected to the office of Iran’s supreme leader, shortly after the account posted a photo showing former President Donald Trump playing golf in the shadow of a giant drone.

In response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, a Twitter spokesman said that the tweet had violated the company's “abusive behavior policy,” and that the account had violated its “manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts,” without elaborating.

Other accounts thought to be tied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office remained active.

Earlier this month, Facebook and Twitter cut off Trump from their platforms for allegedly inciting the assault on the U.S. Capitol, an unprecedented step that underscored the immense power of tech giants in regulating speech on their platforms. Activists soon urged the companies to apply their policies equally to political figures worldwide in order to combat hate speech and content that encourages violence.

The image posted late Thursday by the account linked to Khamenei appeared to call for an attack on Trump, with the caption “Revenge is certain" written in Farsi.

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The warning referenced Khamenei’s remarks last month ahead of the first anniversary of the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. In his speech, Khamenei did not call out Trump by name, but reiterated a vow for vengeance against those who ordered and executed the attack on Soleimani.

“Revenge will certainly happen at the right time,” Khamenei had declared.

Iran blocks social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and censors others. While top officials have unfettered access to social media, Iran’s youth and tech-savvy citizens use proxy servers or other workarounds to bypass the controls.

Soon after Trump's ban from Twitter ignited calls to target tweets from other political leaders, the company took down a post by a different Khamenei-linked account that pushed a COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory.

Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, had claimed that virus vaccines imported from the U.S. or Britain were “completely untrustworthy.”

Credit: AP
In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. in Tehran, Iran. Khamenei called to ban the import of American and British vaccines, claiming they are not to be trusted. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)