« Operation Spider » by IRGC attacks alleged cyber criminals

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran has spread widely in its fight against cyber crime by following up individuals with social media pages for alleged cultural misdeeds. But in the Islamic Republics war against what it sees as anti Iranian Islamic activities, the regime could be losing the fight.

On Saturday 30 January 2015 Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Center for Investigation of Organized Cyber Crimes made statement in the media about a recent operation on social networks in particular Facebook.

According to the statement IRGC was able to «identify and arrest some of the most important elements and active social networks on the Internet that have a mission to spread corruption and diminish the Iranian-Islamic way of life and targeting the holy institution of the family. »

The statement said that « this network by abusing the domain of the Internet and hidden and indirect support of Western governments » was able to create 350 Facebook pages in two years. Their activities allegedly included:
«Proliferation of the culture of a hedonistic lifestyle, weaken the foundations and negating the institution of the family, mock religious beliefs and values, spread relations outside of moral codes, spread personal images of young girls – which creates conflicts in families and possibly of their disintegration, abusing youths and adolescents, including girls and boys and production and distribution of immoral and anti-religious material in the form of tabloid and popular content on social network Facebook. » Some of those people affected by IRGC centres operation alleged earned «illegitimate income» through their activities.

Cyber crimecan take variety of forms and is not unique to Iran and it affects nearly every society with Internet access. But IRGCs Center for Investigation of Organised Cyber Crimes seems to have spread widely in this operation by arresting individuals for activities which in many contexts are not be considered as crimes. This is in part because the IRGC and more broadly Iranian hardliners see such activities as being part of soft war carried out by hostile foreign governments and their Iranian facilitators.

Soft war is not just regime rhetoric but is seen by some people as national security concern and has received massive funding. Cyber space which is a key domain for the spread of ideas is seen as key domain for the broad cast of content which can advanced the perceived soft war against Iran. This is why Iran has not only one but several organizations for oversight of cyber space including FATA police unit which appears to perform the same function as the IRGC Center for Investigation of Organised Cyber Crimes even in relatively more open and transparent fashion. Yet as said in the past when it comes to fighting the soft war the regime only seems to be capable of successfully employment of hard tools such as cyber filteringregime and arrests and interrogations. What the regime appears to be incapable of successfully employing is soft tools to attract Iranians back toward the Islamic Republics vision of Iranian Islamic culture instead of only trying to deter consumption of Western culture.