Iran officials reportedly bribed some Instagram moderators to remove accounts

What you need to know

  • Iranian officials allegedly offered money to some Instagram content reviewers in exchange for removing accounts of journalists and activists.
  • Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American author and activist, appears to be among those targeted by Iran.
  • Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has denied these allegations.

Iran’s intelligence officials have been accused of attempting to bribe a few Instagram content moderators to remove the accounts of journalists and activists critical of the country’s government, the BBC reports (opens in new tab).

A former content reviewer told the news outlet’s Iran bureau that officials offered to pay “5,000 to 10,000 euros” (approximately $5,350 to $10,700) to delete the Instagram account of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American author and activist. The moderator previously worked for Telus International, which handles reports and complaints from Instagram and Facebook users, according to the report.

Instagram’s parent company, Meta, was not immediately available for comment as of this writing. But a spokesperson from the company denied these allegations in a statement to the BBC.

“We see no evidence to support these claims,” the Meta spokesperson told the news outlet. “Our review teams remove content that breaks our rules.”

Meta also maintains that its “reviewers’ decisions are regularly audited to help ensure accuracy.” However, a current moderator has backed up the former reviewer’s claims and said that the company only audits about 10% of their decisions.

On the other hand, Meta explained to the BBC that it conducts its weekly audits “based on a random sample to maintain quality and accuracy, and to understand where mistakes had been made.”

The moderators also accused some of their Iranian colleagues of supporting the Iranian regime and receiving instructions from it. These reviewers enjoy the liberty of removing a “post that has been reported without facing any serious consequences,” one moderator told the BBC.

Like Meta, Telus International denied the claims but added that “it took them very seriously and had launched an investigation into their merits,” per the BBC.

The content reviewers spoke out after a number of Iranian Instagram users cried foul over the removal of some posts critical of the Iranian regime. The recent avalanche of anti-government content talked about the ongoing anti-government protests taking place in various parts of Iran after the government moved to cut subsidies for basic goods. This has caused price hikes for food staples.

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