An oversight committee for Facebook’s parent firm claims it was incorrect for the site to take down a post with a well-known anti-Iranian leader protest chant.
The use of “marg bar Khamenei” (literally, “death to Khamenei”) violated rules, according to Meta moderators in July.
The board disagreed, stating that the term did not constitute a genuine threat of violence and was frequently used figuratively to indicate “down with Khamenei.”
Additionally, it made suggestions “to properly protect political speech.”
When deciding whether content should be allowed or prohibited on Meta’s platforms, which also include Instagram and WhatsApp, the Oversight Board makes decisions independently.
Before the government started limiting access in September in reaction to widespread protests against the clerical establishment and Supreme Leader, millions of Iranians relied on Meta’s social networks for news. Ali Khamenei, the ayatollah.
The ongoing turmoil was started by the death in detention of a young woman who was being held by morality police for reportedly wearing her hijab “improperly.” Crowds have been heard chanting “marg bar Khamenei” during this time.
Authorities have labeled the demonstrations “riots” and used deadly force in response. According to the Human Rights Activists’ News Agency, at least 519 protestors have been killed and 19,300 have been detained thus far (HRANA). Following what the UN has criticized as “unfair trials based on forced confessions,” four detainees have been put to death.
According to the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision, Meta “must do more to protect freedom of expression in the Iranian context, and enable the use of rhetorical threats.”
“Because of the relentless repression of free speech by the Iranian regime, online communities have emerged as important dissenting forums. It is crucial that Meta supports user voices in these circumstances.”
It also stated that Meta should have warned moderators not to remove content that had the slogan “marg bar Khamenei” in light of the anti-government demonstrations that took place on Iran’s National Day of Hijab and Chastity in July of last year.
As this instance demonstrates, by failing to do so, political discourse aimed at defending women’s rights was silenced.
According to the board, proposals had been made “to further protect political speech in critical situations, such as that in Iran, when historic, broad protests are being forcefully put down.”
It also encouraged Meta to add the standards used to assess when rhetorical threats against heads of state were acceptable in its rules on violent content.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous year, Meta briefly permitted its users in several nations to demand the demise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two days after it was made known that the exemption existed, it overturned it.