Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Friday, urging them to open a criminal investigation into Twitter for violating sanctions on Iran.
Twitter’s platform enables Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to have social media accounts through the platform, which Cruz said violates the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
Cruz — along with Senators Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, explaining that Twitter, like all American companies, is prohibited from providing “goods or services” to that country’s top officials under U.S. sanctions.
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“The Ayatollah and any American companies providing him assistance are entirely subject to U.S. Sanction laws,” the letter to Dorsey said. “A Twitter account is a service.”
Cruz further said that the Iranian government does not allow its citizens to access Twitter and that its leaders’ accounts are used only to “propagandize to the world.”
Twitter responded to the senators’ warnings in a letter that said the platform was a tool of communication and therefore was “broadly exempted” from the Office of Foreign Assets Control sanction laws.
“Fundamental values of openness, free expression, public accountability, and mutual understanding matter now more than ever,” a Twitter spokesperson said in the return letter.
“Regardless of the political agenda of a particular nation state, to deny our service to their leaders at a time like this would be antithetical to the purpose of our company, which is to serve the global public conversation.”
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Earlier this week Twitter flagged two tweets that President Donald Trump posted regarding mail-in ballots claiming that the upcoming presidential election would be “rigged.”
Twitter added links to the bottom of his posts that urged people to “get the facts” about mail-in voting.
This was the first time Twitter determined that Trump’s tweets violated its policies by providing potentially misleading information.
Twitter again made headlines Friday, after they hid a tweet the president posted regarding riots in Minnesota that said, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
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Twitter added a disclaimer to the hidden post that said, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
The president’s tweet can still be accessed if a user clicks on it.
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), posted tweets by Khamenei Friday, asking Twitter why they hadn’t also been flagged for “glorifying violence”.
Trump signed an executive order Thursday that aims to shift legal protections social media companies have to shield against liability for content posted on their platforms. Under the controversial new order, the FCC would instead determine how Twitter would be regulated.
The order is expected to face legal challenges.
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Twitter has not yet commented on the newest letter sent by GOP members of the Senate to the attorney general and Treasury secretary.
Cruz could not be immediately reached for comment.