As President Donald Trump rages against Twitter for moderating his tweets, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is calling for a federal investigation into the company on unrelated grounds. The senator has sent a letter to the Justice Department calling for Twitter to be investigated for violating ongoing sanctions against the nation of Iran, as first reported by Axios.
As Cruz describes it in the letter, Twitter’s refusal to ban Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei constitutes a violation of US sanctions, placed on the leaders as individuals in June 2019. Cruz raised concerns about those accounts in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in February, but this is the first time he has called for a criminal investigation.
“When a company willfully and openly violates the law after receiving formal notice that it is unlawfully supporting designated individuals,” Cruz writes in the letter, “the federal government should take action.”
Twitter declined to comment on the allegations.
Twitter is blocked by the Iranian government, which makes its leaders’ use of the platform something of a sore point. Some have argued that allowing leaders to use the service will encourage the lifting of restrictions in the future, but that tactic has not been effective thus far.
The situation escalated dramatically after the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this year, with a number of high-profile account deletions by Instagram, which is still in use within the country. Still, enforcement has been haphazard, and the sanctions are notoriously strict.
Shortly after Cruz’s letter became public, the White House seized on the issue, pointing out a recent tweet from Khamenei calling for violent struggle in the service of Palestine. “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” the White House wrote on Twitter. “However, Twitter has determined that it will allow terrorists, dictators, and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform.”