Earlier today, Kim Kardashian West collected her first-ever Webby Award for her massive influence on internet culture, fittingly termed the “Break the Internet” award. Limited to just a five-word speech, as is convention at the ceremony, Kardashian powerfully declared: “Nude selfies till I die.”
Just yesterday, a world away in Iran, the country’s cybercrimes court was celebrating its social media crackdown. A state prosecutor triumphantly claimed that the authorities had made several arrests of citizens spreading “immoral” behavior online. Women on Instagram were clearly the main targets of the undercover sting operation, with eight female models in total arrested for posting “un-Islamic” photos in which they were pictured without a hijab. A spokesman for the country’s cybercrimes unit claimed that Iran’s internet had been infiltrated by “foreign” agents, among them Kardashian and the CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, reports local news outlet Iran Wire.
“Ms. Kim Kardashian is a popular fashion model so Instagram’s CEO tells her, ‘make this native,’” said spokesman, Mostafa Alizadeh. “There is no doubt that financial support is involved as well. We are taking this very seriously.”
What sounds like the plot of a bumbling, espionage spoof movie is evidently not a source of amusement in Iran. As part of the digital crackdown, a famous Iranian model, Elham Arab was ordered to appear in front of the Iranian Iranian Revolutionary Court. In a televised hearing, Arab can be seen in a hijab expressing remorse for her modeling career.
Alizadeh’s statement makes it clear that the state is intent on laying the blame on western cultural icons and modes of expression. Kardashian’s rallying cry at the Webbys will likely do little to soften her image in the country, and ease the state’s apprehensive approach to social media.
Neither Kardashian, nor Instagram, have commented on the accusations. Meanwhile, one of the targeted Instagram users (makeup designer, Elnaz Golrokh) is thought to have left Iran along with her husband, male model Hamid Fadaei, at an undetermined date.