Ted Cruz Calls for Criminal Investigation of Twitter for Potentially Violating Sanctions Against Iran

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing as President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh appears on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, to begin his confirmation to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has called on the Justice and Treasury departments to launch a criminal investigation of Twitter over allegations that the firm is violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Axios reports that Senator Ted Cruz sent a letter on Friday to the Justice and Treasury departments calling for a criminal investigation of social media site Twitter over allegations that the firm is violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Twitter allows Iranian leaders to have accounts on its platform. Cruz is now asking Attorney General Bill Barr and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to probe whether or not the accounts operating on Twitter’s platform violates U.S. sanctions that prohibit American businesses from providing goods and services to Iran’s top officials.

Cruz wrote in his letter:

I believe that the primary goal of (the International Emergency Economic Powers Act) and sanctions law should be to change the behavior of designated individuals and regimes, not American companies

But when a company willfully and openly violates the law after receiving formal notice that it is unlawfully supporting designated individuals, the federal government should take action.

Twitter has previously stated that it is in the public interest to have political figures’ speech on its platform even if some are unhappy with the figure’s presence. This isn’t the first time that Cruz has taken issue with Twitter allowing Iranian officials on its platform.

In February, Cruz led a letter from Republican senators to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling on the firm to ban Iranian leaders including Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In April, Twitter argued that its service is exempt from the sanctions and that public conversation is critical during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, public policy & trust and safety lead, wrote in response to the letter from Republicans:

Fundamental values of openness, free expression, public accountability, and mutual understanding matter now more than ever. Regardless of the political agenda of a particular nation state, to deny our service to their leaders at a time like this would be antithetical to the purpose of our company, which is to serve the global public conversation.

On May 26th, Twitter added a “fact check” label to a pair of tweets from President Trump expressing widely-held concerns about mail-in ballots increasing the risk of voter fraud. The “fact check” link, which urged users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots,” directed users to a Twitter “moment” — a collection of links and tweets, handpicked by Twitter employees.

The “moment,” intended to fact-check the President, was filled with establishment media articles from CNN, the Washington Post and other outlets, baselessly asserting that Trump was lying about mail-in ballots. This is reportedly the first time the social media platform has branded Trump’s tweets with a link to a “fact check” of this type.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai questioned why Twitter had not applied the same fact-check labels and “glorifying violence” tags to tweets from Khamenei’s account:

In April of 2019, Breitbart News reported that the Facebook-owned social media platform Instagram blocked the account of numerous Iranian officials including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in compliance with U.S. sanctions.

Breitbart News reported at the time:

Another major Iranian account removed by Instagram belonged to IRGC Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, one of the most popular and influential figures in Iran. Soleimani’s account had over 888,000 followers.

Ayatollah Khamenei lost 21,400 followers when his English-language account was suspended. He has a much more popular Instagram account in Farsi with 2.5 million followers that was still active as of Wednesday morning.

The United States formally classified the IRGC, controlled by the theocratic wing of the Iranian government, as a foreign terrorist organization on April 8.

“We work with appropriate government authorities to ensure we meet our legal obligations, including those relating to the recent designation of the IRGC,” a spokesperson for Instagram said.

Read more at Breitbart News here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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