Saturday Jan 11, 2020
Social media giant Facebook said on Friday that it would be removing content posted in support of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani from their platforms in order to comply with United States sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported CNN.
The US had killed Soleimani in an air strike as he left Baghdad airport in Iraq last week. In a statement released after the killing, the US said it had targeted Soleimani because the Iranian general was involved in the killing of several US troops in the region.
Soleimani was a chief of the Quds force, a branch of the IRGC that dealt with Iranian operations on foreign soil. The US had back in April designated the IRGC, an elite branch within the Iranian military, as a terror group for using terrorism as a tool of state craft.
After Soleimani's killing, a fierce contest had ensued on social media between those who supported the actions of Soleimani against those condemned him.
"We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government's designation of the IRGC and its leadership," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN regarding the content removal.
Back in April, after the US had designated the IRGC as a terror group, Facebook had blocked the accounts of many top Iranian generals from their platforms, including an account apparently belonging to Soleimani that was active on the media sharing platform Instagram.
According to the report on CNN, Instagram is one of the few US-based social media platforms that are not banned in Iran. Other popular social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are banned but accessible through the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
In a tweet, Iran's government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, called Instagram's actions undemocratic. "The stick behind the democracy and media freedom is displayed in the nick of time," Rabie said.
"In an undemocratic and unashamed action, Instagram has blocked an [innocent] nations' voice protesting to the assassination of General Soleimani, while the real terrorists have been given an open voice," he noted.
As part of its compliance with US law, a Facebook spokesperson said the company removes accounts run by or on behalf of sanctioned people and organisations.
It also removes posts that commend the actions of sanctioned parties and individuals and seek to help further their actions, the spokesperson said, adding that Facebook has an appeals process if users feel their posts were removed in error.