The Chief of Iran’s Cyber Police (FATA) in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan said yesterday that its agents had arrested an Instagram admin on charges of “blasphemy and disturbing public opinion”.
“This person opened Instagram accounts and posted insulting content in cyberspace with the motive to disturb public opinion and commit blasphemy, as well as encourage divisions between Shiites and Sunnis,” Hassan Kikha told the state-run Fars News Agency. The report did not identify the detained person.
This is not an isolated case. In October 2020, Cyber Police arrested two people in Ardabil, northwestern Iran, on charges of insulting the province’s judiciary officials.
In May 2020, a 60-year-old man was detained by Cyber Police in a northern Iran province. His charges were “publishing lies” on social media platforms about the COVID-19 epidemic.
Iran’s Internet censorship
In a new law passed in February, Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace said websites and social media accounts with over 5,000 viewers or members will be monitored by judicial and government agencies.
According to IT Iran, a website that covers tech news, the law stipulates that account owners must immediately remove “unreal” information, news, or other content, upon being informed and must post an explanation, then report to the relevant authorities.
Accounts monitored will include social media channels, pages, websites, and apps that have over 5,000 viewers or members.
According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Iran is included in the list of press freedom’s 20 worst digital predators in 2020, which include companies and government agencies that use digital technology to spy on and harass journalists and thereby jeopardize freedom of access to news and information.
Iran is also ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.