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16 Jun 2022


Iran: CSO finds that Instagram is used to attack Iranian #Metoo Movement

Weaponizing Instagram against the Iranian #MeeToo Movement", 16 June 2022

Starting in the middle of April 2022, several Instagram accounts sharing stories of sexual violence in Iran were targeted by armies of bots that flooded the accounts with bogus subscriptions. During the coming four weeks, around one million fake subscribers flooded 25 Instagram accounts connected to the Iranian #MeToo” community movement.

The Instagram accounts became unmanageable and the administrators were forced to change the profiles of the accounts to “private” to avoid more bots to join.

The objective of this type of attack is still not clear, and we have not seen it documented before. The attacker likely has the intention to intimidate the account holders and let them know that they are being watched. A potential effect of the attacks could be account blocking, as accounts with large amounts of fake followers can be banned by Instagram.

The attack was clearly targeted – thousands of dollars were invested to instruct armies of bots to follow these accounts. One would expect that the fake bots would be random compromised or fake accounts from all over the world, or perhaps Iranian accounts to better melt in with valid followers. To our surprise, we identified a clear geographical location of the followers who led us right into the world of Social Media Marketing (SMM), where Followers, Likes, Views and Shares are sold to increase the popularity of social media accounts, including Instagram Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. The fact that SMM was used as a form of a digital attack to silence Iranian women movement, is most probably not known by the resellers of these dodgy services.