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Iranian officials ‘crowd-source’ protester identities

Iranian protesters appearing in widely disseminated online photos from the ongoing post-election demonstrations in Iran, are now being targeted on a website of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The website is called Gerdab (which means ‘vortex') and belongs to The Information Center of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for Investigating Organized Crime. It shows images of 20 people with red circles drawn around their faces claiming without evidence that they have been involved in creating “chaos” in Tehran.

Citizens are invited to call or email if they can identify the people on the photos. Gerdab also claims that two of the people depicted have already been arrested. The site provides no further information about any of the depicted people.

Some Islamist bloggers have republished the photos.

Meanwhile, some supporters of the protest movement have themselves published several photos of Iranian security forces and in particular suspected undercover agents asking citizens to help identify them.

For instance, there is one photo of a suspected agent pulling a gun from his belt on the back of a motorcycle. Several bloggers published the photo of the suspected agent, asking readers to help identify him. A few days later, rumors circulated of his name, his position as a Basij leader, and a supposed multimillion dollar bank debt. Information like this is neither fact-checked nor reliable and can have severe consequences for any one who shares the man's supposed name. Online rumors easily replace facts.

It would not be the first time that a photo has led to trouble or imprisonment in a conflict. However, this is a new development in officially sanctioned stalking and persecution by crowd sourcing information online.

See Global Voices special coverage page on the Iranian Elections 2009.

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