A Twitter regional policy official, Ylwa Pettersson, explained on Thursday that tweets regarding Israel posted by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei were not labeled for violating rules, since they are considered "foreign policy saber-rattling".
Responding to a question by activist Arsen Ostrovsky during the Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs video-conference, Petersson said that a tweet violating hate speech rules can still be available if there is "a clear interest in keeping that up on the service".
“We have an approach toward leaders that says that direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on military-economic issues are generally not in violation of our rules", she said.
Khamenei's tweets on Israel allegedly referred to in the question were posted in late May, urging to "eliminate [the] Zionist regime" and announcing that Iran would help any nation that "opposes and fights [the] Zionist regime". Providing a FAQ on "Why should & how can #Israel be eliminated?", Khamenei noted that his tweets did not mean eliminating all Jewish people.
Twitter's reluctance to naming his posts as being in violation of the rules caused backlash and accusations of anti-Semitism from some activists. Blue and White lawmaker Cotler-Wunsh suggested marking similar tweets as "anti-Semitic".
I kid you not! At Knesset hearing on Antisemitism, @Twitter rep tells me they flag @realDonaldTrump because it serves ‘public conversation’, but not Iran's @khamenei_ir call for GENOCIDE, which passes for acceptable 'commentary on political issues of the day'. cc. @CotlerWunsh pic.twitter.com/AXwjkrvlql— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) July 29, 2020
Trump's 29 May tweet that received the hate-speech label from Twitter and was disabled from liking, particularly included the lines "Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”.
The words were labeled as hate speech by the social media platform, but were not removed so that, according to Petersson, "citizens can see what their political figures are commenting [on] and hold them accountable for it online".
Recently, Twitter has sparked the ire of the US president, as his 29 May tweet was not the only one to have been labeled or even removed. Later, the social media deleted his post with a CNN-like-edited video of 'racist baby' as well as a George Floyd tribute, both for copyright complaints. A Trump tweet on mail-in voting was labeled as disinformation by Twitter as well.