GOP Calls on Musk to Evaluate Twitter’s ‘Material Support’ for Iran Accounts

GOP Calls on Musk to Evaluate Twitter's 'Material Support' for Iran Accounts GOP Calls on Musk to Evaluate Twitter's 'Material Support' for Iran Accounts

Elon Musk (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

By Eric Mack | Wednesday, 11 May 2022 10:01 PM

A letter from nine House GOP members to Elon Musk will call on the billionaire to evaluate Twitter's potential "material support" for a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terror and a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), perhaps in violation of U.S. law.

The letter, a draft provided to Newsmax before Thursday's delivery to Musk, argues Twitter not only permits the use of its service to the Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), but it might also be providing "material support or resources" to sponsors of terror and an FTO.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, designed a state sponsor of terror in 1984, is one of just four nations with that label now.

"Let us be clear: we stand for free speech and do not support arbitrary or political censorship by social media companies," the letter, led by Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., read. "Free speech and the free flow of information on platforms like Twitter are key to maintaining healthy democracies both at home and abroad and we sincerely hope your acquisition of Twitter heralds a new era in this regard.

"However, the issue at hand here is markedly different. It is not a question of free speech, but of whether an American company should be providing a service, for which it gives and derives benefit, to designated and terrorist affiliated individual and entities. We believe strongly that the answer is a resounding, 'No,' which is why we urge you to examine this issue further and take action to comply with U.S. law."

Eight other House GOP members signed the letter to Musk, including Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; Jim Banks, R-Ind.; Ken Buck, R-Colo.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Brian Mast, R-Fla.; Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J.; Ronny Jackson, R-Texas; and Barry Moore, R-Ala.

"The Iranian regime uses Twitter to upend free societies and threaten violence, which is exactly why the regime has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism and why many of its officials are on the SDN list today," the letter concluded. "These designations are not arbitrary or political. They are based on well-documented information and evidence, and approved only once subjected to a thorough interagency review by multiple federal agencies.

"Allowing designated individuals and entities to continue using Twitter to incite violence against American officials and citizens, call for the eradication of the Jewish State and its people, and promote its terrorist proxies, is in flagrant violation not only of Twitter’s longstanding policies, but most importantly of U.S. law."

The letter also argued Twitter's advertising-based business model means it is making money off the use of Twitter by Iran and its FTO-designated IRGC, which has talked about avenging the death of Qasem Soleimani with threats on the lives of former President Donald Trump – who remains banned on Twitter – and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"It is possible that there has also been a level of coordination between these accounts and Twitter employees. For instance, should the accounts engage with Twitter support services to address technical questions, report users, or flag content, as is routine for Twitter users, this would be a troubling development," the letter added of the combined Iran-related accounts with 1.6 million followers. "We urge you to thoroughly examine Twitter's practices to reveal the extent to which such coordination has or may continue to be taking place between Twitter and designated Iranian regime officials and entities.

"Not only is Twitter providing a clear service to SDNs like Khamenei and FTOs like the IRGC, and potentially coordinating with them, it is also deriving a benefit from doing so. Twitter's revenue model is based primarily on advertising, which is driven by user engagement and web traffic."

Musk's $43 billion deal to acquire Twitter is not final, but the lawmakers are seeking a preemptive review of their concerns going in.

"Your recent acquisition of Twitter presents the opportunity for transformational change of the organization," the letter began. "This a chance for you to restore the platform so it once again protects, values, and champions free speech. It is also a chance for you to correct a longstanding concern regarding the platform's provision of digital services to sanctioned entities, like those affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran, who are responsible for, among other things, the murder of American citizens.

"It is unacceptable that U.S.-designated foreign entities freely use Twitter, despite U.S.
laws and regulations that prohibit the provision of goods and services to them. We therefore ask that as you begin to review Twitter’s business practices and policies, you will work to ensure full compliance with U.S. laws prohibiting the provision of services to U.S.-designated entities."