OE Watch Commentary: In the wake of the December 2017-January 2018 unrest, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and cyber police have gone on the offensive to counter those utilizing the Internet to conduct what security forces consider counterrevolutionary activities. In the excerpted article from the semi-official Islamic Student News Agency (ISNA), Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi announced that security forces have included those using the internet to incite in their round-up of “thugs.”
While some of the internet activity may have been political, the ISNA also reported that the “thugs” had used social media and Instagram to threaten and perhaps even blackmail other citizens. If this is accurate, then the range of internet crimes which Iranian security forces seek to counter has expanded from politics and pornography to blackmail and extortion as some Iranians post photographs of others in embarrassing situations. Such incidents, even if few and far between, will provide Iranian authorities with an excuse to further their monitoring of all online activity and Iranian government efforts to create a ‘Halal’ intranet strictly controlled by the Iranian government. End OE Watch Commentary (Rubin)
General Hossein Rahimi, in a conversation with ISNA, with reference to the plan to deal with the thugs in Tehran that resulted in the arrest of 241 in different parts of Tehran on Wednesday, said the police plan to deal with the thugs and intruders in the neighborhoods with the assistance of the citizens themselves as well as the observation of my colleagues in specialized police units in different parts of Tehran. A report on the final stage of the operation was also released. When asked whether the “Instagram” thugs were also among those arrested among the mobs, the police chief of Tehran noted, “Three of the arrested individuals are thugs who used to bully, trash talk, and carry out offensive actions in cyberspace. They were identified and arrested.”
According to the ISNA report, for some time, thugs have created webpages to threaten people and create a sense of insecurity for citizens, and police have begun to deal with offenders in cyberspace.