Instagram is removing posts on its platform that support the slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani because of U.S. sanctions on the country. In the days after Soleimani was killed, Instagram and Twitter had been flooded with posts supporting him, which some considered a coordinated propaganda campaign, and calling for vengeance against U.S. military officials.
In a statement provided to CNN, Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, said that the company operated under U.S. sanction laws, including those related to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its leadership. Soleimani was an IRGC commander. In fact, Instagram suspended Soleimani’s account on the platform after the U.S. designated the IRGC as a terrorist organisation last year.
The U.S. killed Soleimani at the beginning of January in a targeted airstrike. President Donald Trump claims that the U.S. took action because the Iranian general was planning attacks on multiple U.S. embassies. The U.S. justification for killing Soleimani, which prompted military retaliation from Iran, has been questioned by other government officials.
According to CNN, Facebook said that Instagram removes accounts run by or on behalf of sanctioned people or organisations to comply with U.S. law. It also removes posts that commend the actions of sanctioned parties and individuals and seek to further help their actions. Facebook added that it has an appeals process that people can use if they feel their posts were mistakenly removed.
After Soleimani’s killing, Instagram suspended the accounts of at least 15 Iranian journalists, the International Federation of Journalists said in a statement. Although Instagram has restored some accounts since then, the federation claims that posts containing information about Soleimani have been deleted permanently.
Iranian state media reported that the country’s government is calling for national legal action against Instagram because of its recent actions. The government has created a website where users can submit examples of content Instagram removed, CNN reported.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei protested Instagram’s actions on Twitter.
“In an undemocratic and unashamed action, Instagram has blocked an innocent nation’s voice [that was] protesting the assassination of General Soleimani, while the real terrorists have been given an open voice,” he wrote.
Instagram is one of the few western social media platforms that is not blocked in Iran. The app had 24 million monthly users in the country in 2018, which made it one of the top 10 markets for Instagram. Facebook and Twitter are banned in Iran, but can be accessed through a virtual private network. Nonetheless, there are reports that say that Iran is planning to block Instagram in the near future as well.