Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday that he is calling for a criminal investigation of Twitter over allegations that the social media company is violating Iran sanctions. In a letter addressed to the Justice and Treasury departments, Cruz questioned whether the official Twitter accounts of Iranian leaders were in violation of law.
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which allows the president to regulate international commerce, American companies are prohibited from providing goods or services to Iran’s leaders. President Donald Trump also signed an executive order in 2019 that sanctioned Iran’s highest-ranking officials.
Cruz stated in the letter that Twitter’s decision to allow Iranian leaders to use its platform could be considered a service provided by the company, Axios reported. Earlier this year, Cruz and other Republican senators sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging him to remove the accounts of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, arguing that these accounts were considered a service and thus violated the IEEPA and Trump’s executive order.
Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde responded to the senators April 3, arguing that Iran’s leaders were able to use the platform because Twitter is “a tool of communication” and thus exempt from sanction laws. Gadde also added that Iran’s leaders were part of a “public conversation” about the coronavirus, stating that the accounts would not be banned during a public health emergency.
Cruz’s letter to Attorney General Bill Barr and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Friday dismissed these claims, however. Cruz said that the accounts of Iran’s leaders were being used “to post anti-American disinformation and conspiracy theories, not authoritative health information.” (RELATED: Treasury Department Sanctions Iran’s Interior Minister Over Human Rights Abuses)
Iran’s leaders have also used their Twitter accounts to promote violence and extremism, such as a tweet from Khamenei that called for jihad, which often refers to religious war.
5. My main advice is to continue this struggle & better organize anti-occupation organizations, cooperation & expand the areas of #Jihad inside Palestinian territories. Everyone must help the Palestinian fighters. We will proudly do everything in our power on this path.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 22, 2020
He also dismissed the idea that Twitter was exempt from sanction laws. Citing a provision in Trump’s executive order, Cruz stated that any American company which had “provided technological support for, or goods or services to” Iran’s leaders was in violation of the law.