Iran 'offered Instagram moderators bribes' to remove anti-regime profiles

Iran 'offered Instagram moderators bribes' to remove anti-regime profiles
2 min read
27 May, 2022
Among the profiles Iranian agents reportedly wanted removed from Instagram was feminist campaigner Masih Alinejad.
Iranian activists have accused Instagram of blocking content documenting anti-government protests [Getty]

Iran offered bribes to Instagram moderators to remove anti-regime profiles from the platform, BBC Persian has reported.

A Persian-language content moderator linked to Instagram claimed Iranian intelligence offered them thousands of dollars to block the profiles of known anti-regime activists.

This includes the profile of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist and women's rights activist who has been vocal in her opposition to the Tehran government.

"I was offered 5,000 to 10,000 euros [$5,350-$10,700; £4,250-£9,000] to delete an account. They were especially after removing Masih Alinejad," the former reviewer told the BBC.

Another former content moderator said they "personally knew some reviewers who supported the Iranian regime and received instructions from Iran".

Both accused other colleagues of displaying "pro-regime bias" when moderating social media content.

The moderator, who works for a third-party company that deals with complaints on Facebook and Instagram, told the BBC a reviewer can "independently delete a post" with few consequences.

"If an auditor realises, at most your accuracy rate may drop a percentage [point] or two," they said.

It comes after Iranian activists complained social media posts documenting recent anti-government protests were being taken down.

These included chants by crowds calling for the death of Iran's rulers - slogans that have been commonplace since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Meta Platforms, the owner of Instagram, denies the claims of censorship. 

Telus International, which moderates Persian-language posts on behalf of Instagram, also denied the claims but said it was investigating.

The company said it "does not have, nor has it ever had, any ties to the Iranian government" in a statement to the BBC.

"The processes in place eliminate the ability of reviewers to insert personal or political opinions into their job," it statement added.

"Our team members review a randomized set of content to determine if it violates our client's policies, standards and guidelines, removing any room for subjectivity."