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Source: CNN

Feb 9, 2024

Meta removes Facebook and Instagram accounts of Iran’s Supreme Leader

By Rosa Rahimi, CNN

Meta has removed the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei’s Facebook and Instagram accounts are no longer available. According to Meta, the accounts have been disabled, which means they are permanently removed.

“We have removed these accounts for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations & Individuals policy,” a Meta spokesperson told CNN.

The policy does not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on Meta. This includes those who glorify, support, or represent terrorist organizations designated by the US government.

Iran has long been accused of arming Hamas, designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). In 2021, the US State Department said that the group receives funding, weapons, and training from Iran. Iran is also believed to have armed and trained the Houthis in Yemen, which were re-designated as an FTO by President Biden last month.

“There was enormous pressure on Meta to put a stop to Khamenei’s promotion of these organizations listed as dangerous organizations and individuals since October 7,” said Mahsa Alimardani, a digital rights researcher at Article 19, a human rights NGO.

“It is a shame he wasn’t taken down sooner for harmful content against his own people,” she added.

Meta did not give a specific reason as to why Khamenei’s account fell under the Dangerous Organizations and Individuals Policy.

Khamenei’s main Instagram account had over 5 million followers before its removal.

This week, Microsoft revealed that Iranian “government-aligned actors” launched a series of cyber-attacks since October 2023, “intended to help the Hamas cause and weaken Israel and its political allies and business partners.”

Tehran has officially denied any involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“Many of Iran’s immediate operations after October 7 were hasty and chaotic – indicating it had little or no coordination with Hamas – but it nevertheless has achieved growing success,” Microsoft said in a blogpost on Tuesday.

There were 11 Iranian cyber-enabled influence operations in October 2023 alone, compared to one operation every other month in 2021.

In early December 2023, Iranian-aligned hackers interrupted some streaming television services in the UAE, Canada, and the UK, and replaced them with a deepfake news video featuring an apparently AI-generated news anchor that claimed to show images of Palestinians injured and killed from Israeli military operations.

“We expect the threat posed by Iran’s cyber and influence operations will grow as the conflict persists,” the Microsoft Threat Intelligence report said.

“Increased brazenness of Iranian and Iran-affiliated actors coupled with burgeoning collaboration among them portends a growing threat ahead of the US elections in November,” Microsoft said.

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