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July 29, 2020 4:28 pm

Top Twitter Exec Declines to Tell Knesset Why Ayatollah’s Calls for Genocide Are Not Banned

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Twitter graphic. Photo: edar/Pixabay.

A top Twitter executive who took part in a Knesset hearing on Wednesday declined to say why her company had not taken action against genocidal incitement by Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Appearing virtually at the hearing on social media antisemitism, the head of Twitter Policy for the Nordics and Israel, Ylwa Petterson, faced questions on the issue of antisemitism.

She was asked by international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky why the company had flagged a controversial tweet by US President Donald Trump regarding anti‐police brutality protests, but had never censured Khamenei for his numerous calls for the elimination of Israel.

Petterson replied, “So, we have an approach to world leaders that presently say 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 Twitter rules.”

Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh ‐‐ who had convened the hearing ‐‐ chimed in, “Calling for genocide on Twitter is ok?”

Petterson dodged the question, saying, “So, if a world leader violates our rules, but there is an interest in keeping it on the server, we may place a note to provide some more context about the violation that allows people to click through if they wish to see that type of content.”

“And that is what happened for the Trump tweet,” she claimed. “That tweet was violating our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line of that tweet, and the risk that it could possibly inspire harm and similar actions.”

“And as it was in the interest of the public to keep that on the platform, we decided to keep it up, place it behind a note, put the label on it, as you might say, to limit the interaction with it, but because it is of importance to have it remain so that the citizens can see what their political figures are commenting and hold them accountable for what they’re saying online,” Petterson added.

In her comments, Petterson did not address the issue of why this had not been done to Khamenei or mention Khamenei’s name at all.

Cotler-Wunsh characterized the lack of action against Khamenei a “double standard.” During the hearing, she also urged Twitter to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a guideline.

The hearing came a day after the end of a 48-hour boycott of Twitter by Jewish groups and their allies, after the platform was slow to take action against an antisemitic rant by British rapper Wiley.

View the exchange with Petterson below:

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