Twitter came under fire at Israel’s Knesset Wednesday for flagging President Donald Trump’s tweets while allowing those by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calling for Israel’s destruction to remain untouched. Incredibly, a Twitter official said Ayatollah Khamenei’s tweets do not violate the company’s rules against hate speech.
During a Knesset hearing on antisemitism in social media, international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky asked Twitter’s regional policy head Ylwa Pettersson why the U.S. president’s tweets were labelled as violating the social media giant’s rules on “glorifying violence”, and on a separate occasion “abusive behavior”, but not those of Khamenei, who “literally called for the genocide of Israel and the Jewish people.”
The news came amid a Twitter storm that included the suspension of Donald Trump Jr.’s after he tweeted a video promoting hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure and a 48-hour Twitter boycott by Jewish people and allies over online antisemitism.
In her response, Pettersson said Khamenei’s calls for genocide against Israel were merely “foreign policy saber-rattling.”
“We have an approach toward leaders that says that direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on military-economic issues are generally not in violation of our rules,” she told the Knesset via video conference.
MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who initiated the hearing, interjected: “I just want to fine-tune [Ostrovsky’s] question: Calling for genocide on Twitter is okay, but commenting on the political situation in certain countries is not okay?”
Twitter attached a warning label to Trump’s May 29 tweet warning people that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” about the George Floyd riots. Twitter’s label said the tweet “violated Twitter’s Rules about glorifying violence.”
Then in a June 23 tweet, Trump said there would never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, and that “if they try they will be met with serious force!” That tweet was accompanied by a warning that it “violated Twitter’s Rules about abusive behavior… specifically, the presence of a threat of harm against an identifiable group.”