Instagram removes posts backing slain Iranian leader to obey US sanctions

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Instagram appears to be caught in the crossfire of international politics. Facebook has confirmed to CNN that it pulled posts and accounts supporting slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in order to obey US sanctions against the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its leaders. The International Federation of Journalists noted that some of the accounts had been restored, but the pro-Soleimani posts were still gone -- and some of the accounts that were offline included whole news agencies. As Instagram is one of the few social media services that isn't blocked in Iran, this limits both the outside world's ability to see Iranian perspectives (even if they're dictated by the state) and the country's ability to disseminate news on less contentious topics.

The deletions don't appear to cover accounts outside of Iran.

Not surprisingly, the Iranian government and journalists inside the country have objected to the move. Membes of the Association of Iranian Journalists in Tehran have written directly to Instagram chief Adam Mosseri asking him to stop censoring their media. Government spokesperson Ali Rabiei, meanwhile, claimed the removals represented an "undemocratic and unashamed action" while sidestepping his country's own censorship practices.

These pleas might not get much traction. So long as Instagram is interpreting the sanctions correctly in the first place, it's bound by US law -- the alternative could involve facing far stiffer penalties. Iranians might not see a loosened stance on their content unless there's a change in US policies.