Iranian agents blackmailed BBC reporter with ‘naked photo’ threats

Negin Shiraghaei. (Twitter photo)
Updated 19 November 2017

Iranian agents blackmailed BBC reporter with ‘naked photo’ threats

LONDON: Iranian agents blackmailed a BBC Persian journalist by threatening to publish revealing photos of her as part of a wider campaign against the British media outlet, staff at the broadcaster told Arab News.
New details emerged on Saturday about alleged harassment of BBC Persian reporters’ family members and loved ones at the hands of the Iranian security services.
Negin Shiraghaei, a BBC Persian anchor, told The Times that her elderly father, who has stage-four cancer, had been interrogated by the security services. Rana Rahimpour, a presenter, also said that her parents were brought in for questioning on multiple occasions by Iranian authorities.
Another BBC Persian presenter told Arab News she had been blackmailed by Iranian agents, who threatened to spread rumors about her sex life and compromising pictures. The tawdry tactics had also been used against men, the reporter said, declining to be named due to security concerns. A fake news story about the sexual misconduct of another BBC Persian presenter had been widely disseminated by Iranian agents, she added.
“If they want to make women silenced, they just threaten, (saying) ‘OK, we are publishing stories about your sex life’,” the reporter said.
The reporter told Arab News that Iranian agents had raided her family’s home in Tehran, confiscating a number of cameras and laptops, and arresting a family member.
That’s when the menacing Facebook messages started.
“I got many threatening messages on Facebook and social media from different people saying that (a family member) was arrested and ‘we found many photos of you — if you don’t cooperate with the Iranian intelligence we are going to (publish them),” she told Arab News.
The journalist said she did not know what, if any, intimate photos the Iranian intelligence services have of her, but decried the ploy as “very dirty.”
The smear campaign was intended as leverage to pressure her into resigning from her job as a reporter with BBC Persian, she said. Failing that, she said, the intelligence services wanted her to provide them information about the British news organization.
Blackmail is just part of a string of tactics the Iranian authorities have allegedly used to pressure BBC Persian employees. Family members and friends of BBC Persian staffers, including the elderly and ill, have been arrested and interrogated, according to reports.
According to an internal survey of 96 BBC Persian employees, 44 had been accused of sexual impropriety while the vast majority, 86, reported being harassed. Almost half said their parents had been questioned by authorities in Iran.
Iran has ratcheted up its campaign against BBC Persian reporters and their families since the contested 2009 presidential election.
While BBC Persian is technically banned in Iran, the broadcasts draw listeners eager to hear news updates that have not been filtered through the regime’s official channels. According to the BBC, 13 million Iranians tune into the marquee World Service broadcast despite the official injunction.
Last month, the Iranian government initiated a criminal probe into many of the journalists working for BBC Persian in London, accusing them of conspiracy against the country’s national security. Over the summer, the Iranian judiciary froze the assets of more than 150 BBC Persian staffers because of their work with the British broadcaster.
The experiences of the BBC Persian staffers and their families — who have been subjected to violence, threats or indignities by the Iranian authorities — have been decried by the BBC.
Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, has called the campaign an “unprecedented collective punishment of journalists who are simply doing their jobs.”
Officials at the Iranian Embassy in London did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

Updated 12 December 2019

Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

  • The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
  • He said Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it

Twitter Inc. plans to set up an independent research group to create an “open and decentralized” system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could relieve pressure on the company to appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.
The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, Dorsey said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.
Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.
“Centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people,” Dorsey tweeted.
He said the new approach would also allow Twitter to “focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past.”

The idea, as outlined in articles Dorsey shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.
For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other types of content.
The open standard, however, could upend Twitter’s business model in the process, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.
In an article that Dorsey shared called “Protocols, Not Platforms,” tech news site Techdirt founder Mike Masnick outlined how an open standard could give rise to a “competition for business models” among developers.
Some providers might collect less user data for ads, while others might abandon advertising altogether, instead charging users for access to premium services like filters or data storage, Masnick wrote.
Dorsey said Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.
He went on to suggest that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralizing content hosting, oversight and even monetization of social media, without elaborating on possible alternatives to Twitter’s ads-driven business.