An oversight committee for Facebook’s parent firm claims it was incorrect for the site to take down posts with a well-known anti-Iranian leader protest slogan.
The board disagreed, stating that the term did not constitute a genuine threat of violence and was frequently used figuratively to indicate “down with Khamenei.”
Additionally, it made suggestions “to better protect political speech.”
When deciding whether content should be allowed or prohibited on Meta’s platforms, which also include Instagram and WhatsApp, the Oversight Board makes decisions independently.
Before the government started limiting access in September in reaction to widespread protests against the clerical establishment and Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, millions of Iranians relied on Meta’s social networks for news.
The ongoing agitation was started by the death of a young woman in detention who was being held by morality police for reportedly wearing her hijab “improperly.”
Authorities have labelled the demonstrations “riots” and used deadly force in response.
According to the Human Rights Activists’ News Agency, at least 519 protestors have been killed and 19,300 have been detained thus far (HRANA).
Following what the UN has criticised as “unfair trials based on forced confessions,” four detainees have been put to death.
According to the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision, Meta “must do more to protect freedom of expression in the Iranian context, and permit the use of rhetorical threats.”
“The Iranian government systematically represses freedom of expression and digital spaces have become a key forum for dissent. In such situations, it is vital that Meta supports users’ voices.”
It also stated that Meta should have warned moderators not to remove content that had the slogan “marg bar Khamenei” in light of the anti-government demonstrations that took place on Iran’s National Day of Hijab and Chastity in July of last year.
“As this case shows, its failure to do so led to the silencing of political speech aimed at protecting women’s rights.”
According to the board, proposals had been made “to better protect political speech in critical situations, such as that in Iran, where historic, widespread, protests are being violently suppressed”.
Additionally, it encouraged Meta to improve the standards under which rhetorical threats against heads of state were accepted into its rules on violent content.