Iran’s IRGC Intensifies Crackdown on Facebook Users with 12 Arrests and 24 Summonses
An IRGC cyberspace specialist, Mostafa Alizadeh, announced in a statement on Iranian state television on February 1, that 12 Iranian Facebook users have been arrested on charges of “spreading corruption, and [carrying out a] mission to change family lifestyles.” He added that 24 other citizens were summoned to answer questions about their Facebook activities.
Alizadeh said that since September 2014, the IRGC has intensified its review of Facebook pages, and that 350 Facebook pages managed by 36 individuals had been identified and 130 of them deleted from Facebook.
The IRGC cyberspace specialist threatened citizens who are members of Facebook by saying that the IRGC was monitoring all social networks, “and those who think this space is safe for them, must cease their activities.”
One day earlier, on January 31, a press release by the Center for Investigation of Organized Cyber Crimes, a subsidiary of the IRGC Cyber Defense Command, was published that stated several Facebook users had been arrested in a surveillance project by the IRGC named “Operation Spider” that is aimed at identifying and rooting out Facebook pages and activities that spread “corruption” and western-inspired lifestyles.
The IRGC specialist referred to these pages’ promotion of “pornographic and immoral” content, which aims to “reduce sensitivity about sacred elements of religion.” Examples of the “immoral” content on these pages, according to Alizadeh, included photos taken at Iranian weddings.
Referring to alleged “jokes about the sacred” on these Facebook pages, he added, “The mission of these pages is to complain and whine about any issue that happens in the country in a joke format. Anti-revolutionary networks take advantage of this whining, and they use it as a tool for mass distribution of rumors.”
Alizadeh said that the all the detainees are male, they are from various provinces, and their average age is 25.
Last year, the IRGC arrested and prosecuted eight Facebook users on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the stage,” “insulting the sacred,” “insulting Heads of Branches,” and “insulting individuals.” Soheil Arabi, another Facebook user, has been sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet on Facebook.