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Instagram Suspends Accounts Belonging to Ayatollah Khamenei, IRGC Leaders

Social media giant Instagram has suspended the accounts of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF).

While Khamenei’s English account was suspended, his Farsi one remains active.

The accounts were shut down on Tuesday, a day after the United States officially designated the IRGC-QF as a foreign terrorist organization. Instagram has not given an official explanation for the suspension.

Other accounts that were suspended included those of Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the IRGC, and Brigadier-General Mohammed Pakpour, the commander of the IRGC Ground Forces.

“Iran, which has used social media campaigns to target audiences in both the United States and allied nations with messages aligned with Iranian interests, will continue to use online influence operations to try to advance its interests,” according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which was released in February.

Iran, the report said, has built up its cyber offensive capabilities to such a degree that it enables the Islamic Republic to carry out “attacks against critical infrastructure in the United States and allied countries.”

In August 2018, social media giants Facebook and Twitter shut down hundreds of accounts, including many from Iran, for engaging in what Facebook called “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on the platforms.

The “inauthentic news” propagated by Iranian social media accounts promoted narratives including “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific U.S. policies favorable to Iran, such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).”

The Islamic Republic developed its cyber technologies during the decade of international isolation leading up to the 2015 nuclear accord. The U.S. and Israel consider Iran, together with China and Russia, to be the source of the most aggressive and worrying attacks against their online and electronic infrastructures.

[Photo: public domain / Max Pixel]