Facebook cited US sanctions to explain the removal of Instagram posts that support Qasem Soleimani, the recently killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard general in Iraq.
The Coda Story Website reported Friday about removing pro-Soleimani social media posts from Instagram, Facebook's popular photo and video sharing service.
"We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government's designation of the IRGC and its leadership," a Facebook spokesman told the news site.
The Washington Times was later informed by a Facebook spokesman on Saturday that the company is required to adhere to US sanctions laws and take action where applicable.
Soleimani, leader of the infamous IRCG Quds Force, was killed by a US air raid near Baghdad International Airport on Thursday, January 2, amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.
The US State Department designated IRCG and the Quds Force as foreign terrorist organizations in April 2019, and Facebook subsequently removed the associated Instagram accounts.
A Facebook spokesman told the Times that it removes accounts held by or on behalf of sanctioned parties, as well as content that supports or recommends the actions of sanctioned groups or individuals.
Ali Rabiei, spokesman for the Iranian government, complained from his Twitter account this Monday about the disappearance of social media discussions about Soleimani, accusing Instagram of acting "undemocratic and shameless."
The International Federation of Journalists has since reported that at least 15 Iranian journalists had their Instagram accounts suspended after posting about Soleimani.
"At a time when Iranian citizens need access to information, it is unacceptable for Instagram to choose to censor Iranian media and journalists and individual users," said Anthony Bellanger, IFJ secretary general, in a statement on Thursday.
Facebook and Twitter are blocked in Iran, but not on Instagram. Iranian users can avoid restrictions by using virtual private networks, or VPNs, to route their internet connections to other countries.
Soleimani was planning "imminent" attacks on US embassies before being eliminated, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said on Friday.
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