The Meta Oversight Board overturned the company’s decision to remove any Facebook and Instagram posts that used the slogan “death to Khamenei” to criticize the Iranian leader, saying it did not violate a rule barring violent threats.
The board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, said in a ruling that the phrase is often used to mean “down with Khamenei” in referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
It also urged the company to develop better ways of factoring such context into its content policies and outline clearly when rhetorical threats against heads of state were permitted.
The independent body, funded by the company, indicated” “In the context of the post, and the broader social, political and linguistic situation in Iran, ‘marg bar Khamenei’ should be understood as ‘down with.’ It is a rhetorical, political slogan, not a credible threat.”
Instagram, the most popular in Iran, has faced criticism for deleting posts denouncing the authorities.
Iranian celebrities criticized the company last year and questioned the possibility of the team supervising the network being hacked by the Iranian authorities.
According to Agence France-Presse, the Oversight Board considered that Facebook’s failure to enforce freedom of expression silenced the political discourse aimed at protecting women’s rights.
Meta always had to choose between mitigating content that could be considered violent and defending the freedom of expression.
The company bans language that incites “serious violence” but aims to avoid overreach by limiting enforcement to credible threats, leaving ambiguity around when and how the rule applies.
After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, for example, Meta introduced a temporary exemption to allow calls for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin, aiming to give users in the region space to express their anger over the war.