Some Iranians complain that their Instagram posts are being restricted, allegedly by other Iranians working for the company's content review subcontractor.

In recent days some Iranian activists and groups have complained about restriction on public access to their direct messages as well as removal of hashtags, videos, and posts related to ongoing protests in the country.

‘1500 Tasvir’ which runs popular Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to Iranian politics and protests said on Twitter Tuesday that it can no longer access videos sent to their Instagram account by citizen reporters in Iran.

In January Instagram also removed posts with the hashtag #IWillLightACandleToo which many used to commemorate 176 victims who died when Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in January 2020 fired two missiles at a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran. Instagram later apologized and said the hashtag had been “restricted by mistake.”

Instagram also explained that the restriction was due to the hashtag being “reported” by other users for not meeting Instagram community guidelines.

In April 2019, Instagram also deleted accounts of many current and previous Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) commanders after the US designated the IRGC a ‘foreign terrorist organization.’

BBC’s sources alleged that pro-regime employees of the German branch of Telus International, a Canadian contractor which provides content moderation to Instagram, are responsible for restricting anti-government content of Iranian users.

One the sources told the BBC that pro-regime employees would first report certain hashtags, posts and accounts for violation of Instagram rules during their breaks when they could use their personal mobile phones and then remove the post or account based on their own anonymous reports.

The source currently working for Telus, who the BBC report introduced with the alias Mehdi, said the company had over 400 Iranian employees for reviewing Persian-language content.

In response to BBC Persian’s enquiry, Meta – the mother company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – said decisions of its 15,000 staff who review content in 70 languages , including Persian, were also reviewed to establish their fairness. Meta also said it had not found any evidence of restriction of a hashtag related to recent protests in Iran’s Hafshajan.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who is ultimately responsible for all human rights violations in the country has multiple accounts on Instagram and the company has not acted to take them down despite many appeals aby activists.

Instagram which has around 45 million users in Iran is the only major social media platform not blocked in the country where other platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram cannot be accessed without the use of anti-filtering software and VPNs.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who often refers to pro-regime cyber propagandists as “soldiers” in a soft war, has repeatedly criticized slow progress in launching a regulated national internet network.

The National Information Network (NIN) to be established under the Fifth Development Plan Act, is a system of control over internet access and content, blocking websites and social-media platforms deemed religiously or politically unacceptable

Iran has one of the world’s worse internet censorships, with tens of thousands of websites blocked since the early 2000s and most social media platforms banned. In the absence of free media and the very high level of censorship, many Iranians turn to social media for political news and information.

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