Iranian Internet Censors Can’t Contain Bieber, Kardashian Instagram Photos

Internet censors in Iran are no match for Kim Kardashian’s sultry lingerie photos on Instagram.

According to a paper being presented at a technology conference in Berlin on Thursday, Iranian Internet censors are having an increasingly tough time keeping racy celebrity photos off of the social media app.

Mahmood Enayat, of the research group Small Media, told the Associated Press that one of his colleagues in Iran was recently able to access a shirtless photo of Justin Bieber, something he would not have been able to do in the country just a short while ago.

Some 983 Instagram accounts, including Bieber’s, Kardashian’s, Jennifer Lopez’s and a number of other celebrities that were previously blocked in the country are now accessible via the Instagram app.

That’s because Instagram recently began encrypting the connections between smartphones and the company’s servers. The added security means that Iranian Internet censors cannot see exactly which account a user is looking at at a given time.

The reemergence of the “racy” Instagram accounts poses new problems for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s policy of “smart filters” on the Internet. Last year, Rouhani ordered an expansion of such filters, which block offending content on websites without blocking those sites entirely.

“Nothing about it is ‘smart’ as far as we can tell,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran director Hadi Ghaemi told AP.

The struggles for Iranian Internet censors are likely to get worse; while it is not known exactly how many Instagram users live in Iran (an Iranian app store reportedly put the number at 6 million), Instagram says it is working to implement additional encryption across its entire network.

Small Media’s Enayat told the AP that the situation in Iran shows that Rouhani’s “smart filtering” policy is a dead end.

“The case of Instagram shows it’s not going to work,” Enayat said.

Looks like Iranian celebrity-watchers caught a break, although in some cases, self-censorship is not a bad option.


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