Iranian intelligence agencies tried to bribe Instagram moderators – media

Iranian special services tried to bribe the moderators of publications on Instagram to remove from the social network the pages of activists and journalists who are objectionable to the regime. The BBC was told about this by two people who moderated Instagram in Farsi.

“I was offered 5-10 thousand euros if I agreed to delete someone’s blog. In particular, they really wanted to get rid of Masih Alinejad’s account,” said one of the media interlocutors, already a former moderator.

Alinejaj is a well-known American journalist of Iranian origin. Last summer, US authorities accused Iranian intelligence agencies of trying to kidnap her and take her to a third country. Iran denied that they were plotting the kidnapping.

According to both moderators, among their colleagues were those who showed pro-government sentiments in their work, although in theory people in this profession should remain neutral.

Both interviewees spoke on condition of anonymity. One of them is a former employee of Telus International, the other still works there.

This company provides independent moderation services. Its employees deal with messages and complaints from Facebook and Instagram users, following the rules of these social networks.

People decided to give us an interview because of the anti-government protests that swept through several provinces of Iran in May.

Many users noticed that posts about these unrest on Instagram were mysteriously disappearing.

Both moderators say this is because their colleagues are deleting these posts because of their pro-government views. Both Instagram owner Meta Platforms and Telus International consider the accusations unfounded.

Initially, the current protests in Iran began because the authorities cut subsidies for basic foodstuffs, and their prices have risen sharply. But the rallies soon took on a political dimension, with criticism of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi. The security forces began to harshly suppress the protesters, at least five people were killed.

Official state media did not cover these protests, but Instagram users began to actively report on them, posting photos and videos.

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