13:01 GMT26 January 2020
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    Following Washington’s designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, Instagram and its parent company Facebook started deleting accounts belonging to prominent members of the IRGC last April under the pretext of American sanctions.

    Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram have started removing users' posts dedicated to the assassination of Iranian IRGC general Qasem Soleimani, CNN reported citing the social network's spokesperson.

    The Facebook representative linked the removal of posts with US sanctions, but didn't elaborate further. In a similar action that saw the Instagram accounts of many IRGC officials removed in April 2019 the company cited the US designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation.

    "We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government's designation of the IRGC and its leadership", Facebook stated at the time.

    The removal of the posts was first reported by Coda Story on 10 January. The media outlet brought up the examples of Emadeddin Baghi and Bahareh Letnes, whose Soleimani-related posts were removed for violation of Instagram's community guidelines. Baghi posted a photo of the deceased general calling him a "war hero" and expressing hope about a swift US withdrawal from the Middle East in the caption. The post was later removed by Instagram's administration.

    Baghi, who is an investigative journalist and known critic of the IRGC, according to the media outlet, wrote in his now deleted post that Soleimani’s death "saddened some, and made others happy", while condemning the US airstrike as an act contradicting the principles of international law.

    Demonstrators attend a protest against killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who died in an air strike at Baghdad airport, outside U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
    © REUTERS / MURAD SEZER
    Demonstrators attend a protest against killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who died in an air strike at Baghdad airport, outside U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

    Coda Story reported that not only posts have been removed from the social media platform following Soleimani's death, but also the accounts of some Iranian media outlets have been deleted, such as Tasnim News Agency an Jamaran News. The social network has not commented on the reasons behind this.

    In a separate incident, Twitter has temporarily restricted access to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s account on its platform without elaborating on the reasons except standard the caption that "unusual activity" has been detected.

    'Undemocratic' Action

    The decision by the social network to censure the content of Instagram, one of the few social media not blocked in Iran, was slammed as undemocratic by government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

    The Iranian government has called for legal action against Instagram and organised a web portal for social network users, who can leave their now-deleted post for everyone to see.

    Soleimani's Assassination

    IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a targeted US airstrike as he was visiting Iraq on 3 January. Washington justified its actions by claiming that the general had planned attacks on American embassies, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later admitted that the US didn't know the location or time of these attacks.

    The killing of Soleimani sparked harsh condemnation from Iran, which later retaliated for his death by launching a missile strike against two military bases in Iraq, hosting US troops. No soldiers were hurt in the attack, but the bases sustained "minor damage" as a result.

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    Tags:
    censorship, Qasem Soleimani, Iran, Facebook, instagram
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