Multiple social media companies have reportedly been working with the Iranian government to censor content that does not meet the approval of the country’s strict religious authorities.
The Independent reports that social media companies such as Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube have come under criticism for appearing to collaborate with the Iranian government to remove “immoral” content from their platforms, content that defies the Iranian government’s strict religious codes. Many of these apps are blocked within Iran but can often be accessed through the use of proxies and VPN servers.
Iran’s new communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi has plans to lower the countries strict rules relating to apps such as Instagram and Twitter, but Jahromi has been quoted in multiple publications as having been in talks with tech companies to operate within the country once they abide by Iran’s “morality” rules. Jahromi stated in an interview in an Iranian daily newspaper, “[Twitter] has announced that it is prepared to negotiate to resolve problems.”
Former communications minister Mahmoud Vaezi also stated that the Iranian Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC) was in talks with Instagram to remove “immoral” content. “We have contacted the managers of Instagram and they have responded that they are ready from a moral perspective to filter pages that have criminal content,” said Vaezi. The Independent reached out to Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram for comment but received no reply.
The Internet is not viewed favorably by Iran’s Committee for Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice which believes that it can be a corrupting influence within the country. “Bad hijab is a bad thing but cyberspace is a hundred times worse,” Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Movahedi Kermani, who heads the committee stated. He continued to say, “Cyberspace can uproot religion and Islam completely.”
Kaveh Azarhoosh, an internet policy analyst and masters candidate at Oxford University’s Internet Institute discussed previous rumors that encrypted messaging app Telegram had cooperated with the Iranian government saying, “Our hunch the whole time was that the Iranian government claimed they were talking to high-level people at Telegram, but they weren’t really, and it was all just propaganda.”
Azarhoosh continued to warn about the future of tech companies working with governments such as Iran saying, “What’s dangerous is if these companies are not transparent about their dealings with Iran. The Iranian government is one of the biggest abusers of limiting information in the world. These proposed measures would invade people’s privacy and right to expression and could be a matter of life and death for bloggers and other activists.”