Iranwire – Feminist and women’s rights campaigns with a focus on Iran have been the subject of a mass cyber-attack this week, with many forced to temporarily switch their Instagram pages to private mode.
The hosts of the Iranian Me Too, Harass Watch and Cheragh Academy, all three of which work to combar sexual violence and harassment in Iran through education and public callouts, reported being affected by a “widespread, organized” attack on Wednesday night.
An early page set up by some of the 800 female filmmakers who recently signed a joint letter of protest against sexual abuse in Iranian cinema was also targeted, as was the women’s rights advocacy channels including Awakening,
Samaneh Savadi, founder of the Cheragh Academy, which focuses on raising awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace, wrote that for 48 hours, the various groups had been receiving wave upon wave of new followers that on close inspection appeared to be bots. One official account, she said, had gained 2,000 fake-looking new followers in less than an hour.
The dancer, writer and queer feminist activist Mina Khani also had to close her Instagram to new followers after an onslaught of contact from “zombie” accounts. The bulk attacks were clearly organized and not the work of “scattered anti-feminists”, she wrote on Twitter, adding: “You might not believe it, but after two days, several fake accounts are still trying to enter the page every minute. It’s scary to see so many fake accounts standing by the door.” Khani also wondered aloud how much the thousands of followers were costing the attacker.
The political commentator and former prisoner Mahdieh Golroo has also had to take her Instagram down. “Some people are taking money to create fake accounts,” she wrote, adding pointedly that this was “a waste of public capital”.