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Photo illustration: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Republican senators led by Ted Cruz in a letter Thursday suggested Twitter may be violating U.S. sanctions by letting Iranian leaders maintain accounts, which they asked company CEO Jack Dorsey to ban.

The big picture: Twitter has become a major political target for Cruz and other Republicans, who claim the company and other Silicon Valley giants are biased against conservatives and the Trump administration.

"While the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans – and Twitter should not be censoring the political speech of Americans – the Ayatollah enjoys zero protection from the United States Bill of Rights," the senators wrote.

Details: The White House in June announced sanctions against top officials in Iran, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

  • The senators argue the sanctions prohibit American companies from providing goods or services to the officials, including internet-based services, and note that both have Twitter accounts.
  • "We therefore call on you to comply with those sanctions by ceasing the provision of services to Khamenei, Zarif, and any other designated Iranian entity," the senators said.
  • Sens. Tom Cotton, Marsha Blackburn and Marco Rubio signed the letter, which was also sent to President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Attorney General Bill Barr, and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.

Twitter declined to comment on the letter.

The catch: Twitter has long maintained that it's in the public interest for political figures to be permitted to speak on the platform, even if people find that speech objectionable. The company has used that same line of reasoning to explain why it hasn't cracked down on Trump despite tweets that seem to break platform rules such as a ban on targeted harassment.

Go deeper

Latino mental health crisis grows

Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Over 40% of Latino adults have reported symptoms of depression during the pandemic, in contrast to 25% of white non-Hispanics, the CDC reports.

Why it matters: The emotional distress is especially acute for Latinos who had COVID-19, some of them tell Noticias Telemundo.

Misinformation is just one part of a vaccine trust problem

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 is the first major pandemic in the social media era — offering experts a rare opening to study the relationship between online misinformation and human behavior on a large scale.

Why it matters: As misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines runs rampant, researchers are trying to measure how much memes and messages with false information can alter someone's decision to get vaccinated.

2 hours ago - World

Israel's "change bloc" collapses, leaving Netanyahu in charge

Bennett (L) with Netanyahu in 2015. Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images

In a dramatic shift that comes amid fighting in the Gaza strip and clashes between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel, right-wing kingmaker Naftali Bennett has announced he will no longer seek an alternative government to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Bennett had been on the verge of a power-sharing deal with centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid that would have made him prime minister for two years until Lapid rotated into the job. Without Bennett, Lapid has no path to a majority, and Israel will almost certainly head for its fifth election since 2019 with Netanyahu still in his post.