Oversight Board announces Iranian Woman Confronted on Street case
Today, the Board is announcing a new case for consideration. As part of this, we are inviting people and organizations to submit public comments.
Case SelectionCase Selection
As we cannot hear every appeal, the Board prioritizes cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Meta's policies.
The case that we are announcing today is:
Iranian Woman Confronted on Street
User appeal to restore content to Instagram
Submit public comments, which can be provided anonymously, here.
During the summer of 2023, an Instagram user posted a video that shows a man confronting a woman in public because she is not wearing the hijab. The woman, whose face is shown in the video, was arrested following the incident. The accompanying caption, in Persian, indicates the user’s support for the woman and more broadly for Iranian women standing up to the regime, while also commenting on the arrest using descriptive language.
Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran penalizes women who appear in public without a “proper hijab.” As the Board noted in the Iran protest slogan case, “digital spaces have become a key forum for dissent” in Iran. That case related to the protests that began in the country in September 2022 after the death of Jina Mahsa Amini in police custody, who had been arrested for “improper hijab.” Since then, the regime has increased its levels of surveillance to enforce this rule in public spaces, including by monitoring social media. Protesters in Iran have been using social media to organize themselves and to show their dissent by posting photos and videos as well as using these platforms to highlight the treatment of women by the authorities.
The content in this case was first identified by one of Meta’s classifiers as a potential violation of Instagram’s Community Guidelines and sent for human review. Multiple reviewers assessed the content but because they did not reach the same conclusion on whether the post was a violation, it was left up. A user then reported the content. In response to this report, a classifier determined the content was a potential violation of the Community Guidelines and sent it for additional review. Following this additional level of review, Meta removed the post from Instagram under its Violence and Incitement policy.
The user who posted the content appealed the removal decision to the Board. In their statement, the user explained the post was showing the bravery of the Iranian woman and that others had shared similar videos on social media.
The Board selected this case to explore Meta’s policies and practices in moderating content that could impact the ongoing protests in Iran. This case falls within the Board’s seven strategic priorities of elections and civic space, crisis and conflict situations, and gender.
As a result of the Board selecting this case, Meta initially determined that its decision to remove the content was correct because the caption contains a phrase, according to Meta, that could be interpreted as “intent to commit high-severity violence.” Following additional input from Meta’s regional teams and following the Board’s decision in Call for women’s protest in Cuba, Meta determined the content did not violate its policies and restored the post to Instagram. This time, Meta assessed the content under its Violence and Incitement and Coordinating Harm and Promoting Crime Community Standards.
The Board would appreciate public comments that address:
- How protesters, such as participants in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, use social media, including the role that images of unveiled women play in digital campaigns.
- The nature and gravity of the risks related to circulating pictures or videos on social media showing unveiled women in Iran and how that should impact Meta’s content moderation.
- How the Iranian authorities have used social media to monitor dissenters and participants in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.
- Meta’s enforcement of its content moderation policies for Persian-language expression related to the political situation in Iran.
As part of its decisions, the Board can issue policy recommendations to Meta. While recommendations are not binding, Meta must respond to them within 60 days. As such, the Board welcomes public comments proposing recommendations that are relevant to this case.
Public CommentsPublic Comments
If you or your organization feel you can contribute valuable perspectives that can help with reaching a decision on the case announced today, you can submit your contributions using the link above. Please note that public comments can be provided anonymously. The public comment window is open for 14 days, closing at 23:59 your local time on Thursday 30 November.
What’s NextWhat’s Next
Over the next few weeks, Board members will be deliberating this case. Once they have reached their final decision, we will post it on the Oversight Board website. To receive updates when the Board announces new cases or publishes decisions, sign up here.