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.


  • DM

    The social network — a repository for fully-realized data treasures and precisely tagged-photos — represents a highly-coveted law enforcement resource.

    Once facial recognition software advances slightly, the Iranian government wouldn’t even have to seek these individuals’ identities. They could just look on Facebook.

  • Abraham Sadegh

    The present regime in Iran is neither an Islamic nor a Republic one. It is now the worst possible military dictatorship imaginable because it also uses God for its own satanic purposes.

    There is nothing more disconcerting than to see one’s native land degenerate to such a hell.

    The past weeks, however, signify the beginning of the end for the present regime and hopefully a silver lining for that which will follow.

  • A mob mentality seems to have been forced upon the people. This is possibly the reason this “identification” process has been taken.

  • […] harrowing story lately has been how the Revolutionary Guards have been posting pictures of protesters and asking readers to identify them. Perhaps hearteningly, the Guards’ site for this, […]

  • Khash

    Here is a way everyone can help the protesters. Email and contact gerdab for the identification and give false names and addresses. This will overwhelm them with information and also discredit they information they get

  • […] He did a great job of pumping energy into the conference with humor and a fine balance of offering the future as both an opportunity and a danger. The onus is on us to decide where it’s going. Part of this is making the language of the net more readable. His example was the famous Star Wars Kid not wanting the viral video of his spectacular ninja skills from circulating. Beyond simply labeling a video with licensing, he postulates that perhaps it would not have been circulated had it had a tag that included a request from the kid to not forward the video to friends. (Though of course, I still felt the urge to link to it above). After all, he’s not mentioned by name in Wikipedia for much the same reason. He proceeds to lay out the issues relating to citizen participation, explaining how a noble experiment in crowdsourcing, like Mechanical Turk, can be manipulated into a Captcha Sweatshop [site]. Perhaps this can be taken to video through a Lifestreaming project where protests in Washington Square Park are filmed by people fulfilling work requests where they receive 5 cents per second  as long as their including protester’s faces… Frighteningly, there are already examples of this happening in China, Thailand and now Iran. […]

  • […] also learning to use the web.  Not only they use the web to to get to the activists (for example see how the Iranian government is using the web to identify the particularly active individuals in the […]

  • […] where news and photos of arrested people were published. During the post-election protests in 2009, Gerdab published photos of protesters, and asked the Iranian public to help identify them. Islamist militants were crowd sourcing […]

  • […] festgenommenen Personen veröffentlicht wurden. Im Laufe der Proteste nach den Wahlen in 2009 veröffentlichte Gerdab Fotos von Demonstranten und bat die iranische Bevölkerung bei der Identifizierung zu helfen. Islamisten durchforschten […]

  • […] where news and photos of arrested people were published. During the post-election protests in 2009, Gerdab published photos of protesters, and asked the Iranian public to help identify them. Islamist militants were crowd sourcing […]

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