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Sen. Ted Cruz has sent a letter to the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of the Treasury asking both to look into allegations that social media behemoth Twitter is violating sanctions against Iran, Axios reported.
The Texas Republican says that because the platform allows Iranian leaders to have accounts, he believes Attorney General William Barr and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin should investigate whether that amounts to a violation of sanctions laws that prohibit U.S. firms from providing any goods or services to top officials in the Islamic republic.
“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,” Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general who successfully argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme court, wrote.
“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.”
Cruz’s letter comes as Twitter is already under fire from President Donald Trump for ‘fact-checking’ and censoring some of his tweets.
On Friday, Twitter blanked one of the president’s tweets criticizing the rioting in Minnesota claiming it violated the platform’s policy against “glorifying violence” — while allowing scores of other users to praise the rioting and looting. Also, Twitter censored the official White House account when it quoted the president’s blocked tweet.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” https://t.co/GDwAydcAOw
— The White House 45 Archived (@WhiteHouse45) May 29, 2020
As for Cruz’s allegations that Twitter is aiding and abetting Iran’s leaders in violation of U.S. law, the White House and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, along with other leading conservatives, have asked why the platform isn’t applying similar labels to tweets from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In his Friday letter, Cruz referenced an earlier correspondence to Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey “informing him” the platform “and its principles face criminal liability and sanctions exposure for providing social media accounts to Iranian persons designated as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs)” by the Treasury Department.
Cruz said his February 6 letter to Dorsey “spelled out in detail how Twitter is in violation of” U.S. sanctions laws and executive actions regarding Iran. The Texas Republican noted that Twitter provides accounts for both Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
“To this day, Twitter continues to provide services to these covered individuals, and, in an April 3, 2020 response letter … attempted to justify this decision with two untenable arguments,” Cruz wrote.
In the company’s response, according to Cruz, Twitter stated it would refuse to eliminate the accounts because “to deny our service to [Iran’s] leaders at a time like this would be antithetical to the purpose of our company,” and because Twitter’s “goal is to elevate and amplify authoritative health information as far as possible.”
“The cohesion and legitimacy of our laws rest on their equal application to all citizens and entities, no matter how large or how powerful,” Cruz wrote. “The Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice should investigate what appears to be Twitter’s blatant and willful violation of IEEPA and E.O. 13876 by providing services to Khamenei, Zarif, and other designated Iranian entities, and, to the extent appropriate, enforce any violation through sanctions and by seeking civil and criminal penalties.”
The letter also comes as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that by blocking and censoring President Trump, Twitter is engaging in unlawful election interference.
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