Even though Kim Kardashian’s self-proclaimed “breaking of the internet” with the photo of her exposed derriere was inescapable for several weeks earlier this year, there are parts of the world where racy photos of Kim, Justin Bieber, and Jennifer Lopez aren’t strictly legal.
Iranian officials, however, are losing the battle against social media sites like Instagram. The “instant” nature of the site can allow such photos deemed inappropriate by government censors to spread rapidly before they can be stamped out. Officials first attempted to cut out the offending images by blocking the accounts of several celebrities and other users with a reputation for exposing flesh on Instagram — among them Kardashian, Justin, and around 981 others.
That effort to cut off Kim and Bieber, reported AP, has not been wholly successful. Photos of Justin flashing his six-pack or Kardashian lounging about in lingerie are being seen by Iranians despite the government’s attempt to keep them away from the Islamic republic’s watchful eye, according to a recent paper on Iranian censorship of the popular social media sharing site. The study’s authors explain that these photos aren’t re-appearing because of any changes in Iranian policy, but instead because encryption at Instagram is making it impossible for Iran’s censors to pinpoint an image’s source.
Up until this point, Instagram has been dealt with relatively leniently in the country compared to other forms of social media. After all, photos of Kim and Bieber in various states of undress are harmless compared to the social activism that spreads through Twitter and Facebook’s text-based services. Still, Iran’s conservatives won’t exactly be thrilled that Justin’s abs and the buzz-drumming Kardashian have cracked through their iron wall, one of the paper’s collaborators, Mahsa Alimardani, told AP.
“It does seem a little bit embarrassing.”
It’s possible that the leaking of Kim and Justin’s racy Instagram pics might be the beginning of the end for the site in Iran. In late 2012, Iranian-America analyst Holly Dagres wrote in the Huffington Post that the application was, at least for the time being, escaping unscathed from Iran’s firm control — possibly because of the wealth of wholesome things Iranian seemed to be posting. More than a year later, Iran has yet to block the site.
“If you look up the hashtag #Iran, you’ll find a variety of photos on Instagram. Some are of family gatherings, others are of scenery, I’ve even found some photos of teenagers goofing off. I used Instagram during my latest visit to capture images of historical sites and scenes of everyday Iranian life.”
Instagram’s growing global popularity will make it a formidable opponent for the Iranian government should it choose to up the ante on its censorship of the site. According to Statistica, Instagram has grown massively from 90 million monthly users at the beginning of 2013 to more than 300 million at the end of last year.
[Images via Instagram]