Instagram and Facebook delete the accounts of Iran's supreme leader

Meta has removed Instagram and Facebook accounts run on behalf of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, following criticism over his support for Hamas after the group’s 7 October attack on Israel that sparked the months-long war still raging in the Gaza Strip, the company confirmed on Friday.

Meta, based in Menlo Park, California, offered no specifics about its reasoning. However, it said it removed the accounts “for repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy”.

“We do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on our platforms,” the policy states. That includes those designated as terrorists by the US government. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Accounts associated with the supreme leader had been praising the Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw about 250 others taken hostage. Immediately after the attack, Khamenei backed Hamas in a speech, saying: “We kiss the hands of those who planned the attack on the Zionist regime.” Khamenei still maintains an account on X, formerly Twitter.

Pressure has been growing on online platforms to remove Khamenei in recent years, particularly after the mass protests that followed the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest allegedly over how she wore the mandated headscarf in Iran.

Khamenei’s use of Facebook has drawn criticism after he joined in 2012. The social network has been banned in Iran since its 2009 disputed presidential election and the Green Movement protests that followed. Iran began blocking Instagram and Meta’s WhatsApp messaging service after the protests over Amini’s death.

Iran has provided arms and support to Hamas, though Tehran is not believed to have directed the 7 October attack. Since then, Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians and sparked tensions across the wider Middle East. Iranian-backed militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched attacks against Israel in the time since.

Khamenei and his vast patronage network inside Iran have long been targeted by US sanctions – Khamenei himself since 2019 by the administration of then president Donald Trump as tensions began to spiral in the Middle East over Trump unilaterally withdrawing the US from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.