The search for incriminating photos on social media continues in Iran. As of last March, authorities launched an operation called "Spider II" with the goal of monitoring images published online.
While Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, Instagram is still accessible. Use of the app seems to be tolerated, but the content people are allowed to post is highly controlled. Last May, eight people were arrested and charged by an Iranian tribunal for the cyber crime of publishing "immoral content and promoting anti-Islamic culture."
What exactly was the immoral content? Selfies, and photos of women without headscarves. According to Javad Babaie, one of the judges in charge of cyber crimes, it was their duty to "act against those who commit such crimes in an organized manner."
On Monday, December 5, authorities took further action, arresting twelve people whose names have not been released, and sending them to prison.
Eight women and four men received sentences ranging from five months to six years in prison for "Propagation of prostitution and corruption." In Iran, wearing the hijab is still obligatory in public spaces, and publishing photos of women without headscarves constitutes a crime.
Model Elham Arab paid the price for this last May. After being arrested, the young woman had to explain herself in front of a judge in Tehran on live television. She explained that she was sorry for publishing photos on social media without a headscarf and asked other young Iranian women to not "make the same mistake."
Spreading Western morals
Given their conservative values, Iran considers Instagram to be a real danger. The government sees the American app as a means of spreading Western morals and values in their country.
Iranian authorities are keeping a close eye on Kim Kardashian, for example. Mostafa Alizadeh, one of the spokesmen in the fight against cyber crimes, even expressed concern that: "The CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, wants to bring modeling to Iran and Kim Kardashian is in charge of the project."
Is it possible that Kim is a secret agent trying to corrupt young Iranians? We're not so sure. One thing is certain, though: there's still a long way to go before Iranians will be enjoying fundamental rights.