An Iranian Instagram influencer who made a name for herself by posting pictures appearing as a somewhat exaggerated, or “zombie” version of actress Angelina Jolie has been arrested and her account has been deleted.
Reports are putting the arrest in the context of Iran’s strict internet and real-world censorship. Instagram is a rare foreign social network that’s still legal to use in the country – with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram all blocked.
But the Instagram star, Sahar Tabar, apparently went too far in the way she was using the platform. Presumably to generate attention and notoriety, and advance her Instagram business, Tabar in the past claimed to have had several plastic surgeries to make her look like the actress. However, some reports suggest that most of the images had been heavily digitally manipulated to produce what looked like a version of Jolie.
The charges against Tabar include “blasphemy, gaining an income through inappropriate means, insulting the country’s dress code and instigating violence.”
Instagram’s availability is good and bad news here, as Iran’s authoritarian regime seems to use it to identify users who are then accused of violating the strict Islamic dress code and other religious rules – such as the “no dancing” policy.
18-year-old Maedeh Hojabri was arrested last year for posting a picture of herself dancing in her own home. Iran’s authorities then treated her like they might a captured American serviceman: she was shown on TV presenting her apology.
Hojabri is only one of Instagram users who have been targeted in this way by Tehran, with some rights groups speculating that the country might be preparing to ban the platform completely. However, the way things stand, Instagram may be more useful online than offline to the authorities, especially the country’s “morality police.”
Some of the reports suggesting that an Instagram ban was in the works date back to May, when human rights outfit Article 19 warned about it.
But this far from the only form of internet restriction and censorship. The authorities routinely restrict internet access and block or arrest journalists, activists, and even influencers.