Twitter removes Iran supreme leader's 'misleading' tweet on US COVID-19 vaccines, in line with new policy

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Twitter has removed a tweet from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in line with the platform’s latest policy against misinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, after he claimed the United States’ and other western nations’ coronavirus vaccines are "completely untrustworthy."

The move comes after Twitter last month announced that they would expand their existing rules to combat misleading tweets about COVID-19 vaccines and were committed to removing "the most harmful, misleading information" about them.

"Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited," Khamenei tweeted. "They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations."

Khamenei added: "Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either. #CoronaVaccine."

A Twitter spokesperson told Fox News that the tweet "violated Twitter Rules, specifically our COVID-19 misleading information policy." 

The policy covers "false claims that suggest immunizations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations, including statements about vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy."

A Twitter spokesperson told Fox News that "the account owner will be required to delete the violative Tweet before regaining access to their account."

The move comes after Twitter locked President Trump's account on Wednesday, saying he, too, violated company policies. However, under Trump's account lockdown, he was required to delete the three tweets in violation of policy, which would then trigger a lockout of 12-hours. 

Twitter's enforcement action against Khamenei's tweet does not impose a 12-hour lockout, but instead, just requires him to delete the tweet and acknowledge the enforcement action before he can use the account again.

Meanwhile, under its new policy, Twitter said it would "prioritize the removal of the most harmful misleading information, and during the coming weeks, begin to label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about the vaccines."

"We are focused on mitigating misleading information that presents the biggest potential harm to people's health and wellbeing," Twitter said, adding that it has "an important role to play as a place for good faith public debate and discussion around these critical public health matters."

Under the platform’s policy, Twitter requires the removal of tweets that include false or misleading information about the nature of the virus —such as how it spreads within communities — the "efficacy and/or safety of preventative measures, treatments, or other precautions to mitigate or treat the disease, official regulations, restrictions or exemptions pertaining to health advisories, and the prevalence or risk of infection or death."

The expansion of the policy requires the removal of tweets which "advance harmful, false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations."

Twitter said posts that include "false claims that suggest immunizations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations, including statements about vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy; false claims which have been widely debunked about the adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations; or false claims that COVID-19 is not real or not serious, and therefore that vaccinations are unnecessary."

Meanwhile, Twitter has come under scrutiny for leaving Khamenei’s tweets up on the platform—specifically those that threatened attacks against Israel.

During a Senate hearing in October, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained that those tweets did not "violate our terms of service because we considered them ‘saber rattling,’ which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries."

"Speech against our own people or a country’s own citizens we believe is different and can cause more immediate harm," Dorsey added.

At the same time, Twitter is under fire for not censoring a tweet from China's American embassy touting China's oppression of Uighur minorities.  

"Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uygur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines," the embassy tweeted on Thursday. "They are more confident and independent. Chinese authorities have subjected Uighur women to forced abortions, sterilization and other human rights violations, according to watchdog groups. 

A Twitter spokesperson told Fox News that the embassy's tweet doesn't violate company policies.

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