In Iran, numerous Instagram messages referring to General Ghassem Soleimani and his death, which occurred on January 3 in an attack by US army drones, have been deleted by the social network in recent days.
The moderators of the Facebook-owned application have deleted such messages, while Instagram rules prohibit the endorsement of terrorist organizations. However, the guards of the revolution (of which Ghassem Soleimani was one of the leaders) are regarded as a terrorist organization by the United States – and by extension by the American companies, held to apply the measures of sanction decided by Washington .
This was explained by an Instagram spokesperson interviewed on the subject by the news site Coda : “We are enforcing US sanctions laws, including those concerning the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and its leaders”, she said. Two messages published by Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Guide, who has an account in English on Instagram, were deleted as such recently, also explains the company. In April, after a new series of sanctions against the country, Instagram had already banned the Instagram accounts of several Iranian leaders, including that of General Soleimani.
Safe messages deleted
The posts that were recently deleted on Instagram did not all praise the former Iranian military chief. The accounts of about fifteen journalists in the country were suspended after the publication of messages referring to the death of the general, prompting the International Federation of Journalists to request “Stop censorship of Iranian media on Instagram”. Opponents of the regime, little suspected of praising the Revolutionary Guards, also saw some of their messages censored.
“I shared a two-part message that said the general's death had pleased some people and saddened others, but that this [frappe] was contrary to international law “, explained to Coda activist Emadeddin Baghi, imprisoned several times in Iran. Four of his messages have been deleted. Coda raises the possibility that a significant part of these publications were automatically deleted, in particular because of the use of the word “martyr” in some of these messages.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram is not blocked in Iran, and the number of social media users in the country is estimated to be over 20 million, not counting the diaspora. According to some observers, the rigid or erroneous application of the moderation rules by Instagram risks facilitating the projects of the Iranian government, which has been working for years on a “national Internet” project, based on the Chinese model, allowing massive censorship of connections. The Iranian government is also encouraging the creation of national alternatives to Instagram.