Facebook will allow its users to post the phrase “death to Khamenei” for the next two weeks.
The social media giant had previously censored the phrase amid ongoing protests in Iran, saying the phrase violated its Terms of Service by inciting violence. Activists subsequently complained about the censorship.
ARTICLE19’s Masha Alimardani, whose posts were removed for alleged violations, said the “death to Khamenei” chant is a way for Iranians to express discontent with the totalitarian regime.
“They are removing protest footage from Iran because protestors are saying ‘death to Khamenei.’ This is something that is said in almost every protest in Iran alongside ‘death to the dictator,'” Alimardani told Motherboard. “I can’t think of a clearer example of a lack of contextual understanding than this.”
Facebook says the exception comes from the company’s decision that the phrase does not “call for violence.”
“We recognize that in the current context of protests against water shortages, ‘Khamenei’ is being used largely as a stand-in for the Iranian regime in these statements, rather than as a direct threat or call for violence against him as an individual,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“Accordingly, we have made a limited, time-bound newsworthiness exception to allow this content. For the next two weeks (subject to further review based on the situation on the ground), we will allow use of ‘death to Khamenei’ in the context of political protests in Iran.”
Facebook said it had previously made the exception, although it did not specify when.
The platform came under fire earlier in the month when it censored the #revolution hashtag on posts.
“Keeping Our Community Safe,” Facebook said at the time. “Posts with #revolution are temporarily hidden here. Some content in those posts goes against our Community Standards.”
Facebook recently expanded its Oversight Board’s ability to censor content by accepting appeals from users who reported content that offended them.
“Now, users can also appeal content to the Board which they think should be removed from Facebook or Instagram,” the Oversight Board said in April. “The Board will use its independent judgment to decide what to leave up and what to take down. Our decisions will be binding on Facebook.”
“After you have exhausted Facebook’s appeals process, you will receive an Oversight Board Reference ID in your support inbox and can appeal the decision to the Board,” the platform continued. “You can appeal decisions on posts and statuses, as well as photos, videos, comments and shares.”
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