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Tehran’s online propaganda against the Iranian opposition backfires

Iranian regime’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif
Iranian regime’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif

Analysis by PMOI/MEK


Iran, Sept. 19, 2018 - Last month, internet behemoths including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Alphabet shut down several hundred fake accounts that belonged to the Iranian regime and its Ministry of Intelligence.
Following a report by cybersecurity company FireEye, the companies revealed how the Iranian regime and its broadcasting organization (formally called the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting IRIB), spread the fake news through fraudulent websites and social media accounts.
Shutting down part of Iran’s fake news network was a significant blow to the Iranian regime’s propaganda network.
Some analysts compare this setback to the terrorism scandal that leads to an Iranian diplomat’s arrest in Europe in June. In response, the Iranian regime tried to divert the scandal by accusing the MEK through paid hands that regularly appear in English television channels to slander the Iranian opposition.
But Iran’s campaign created an unexpected backlash.
Immediately after Al-Jazeera English Edition broadcasted a program that incriminated the MEK, the Iranian regime’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, shared the video on his Twitter account and said: “Hello @Jack. Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, incl TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an 'influence op'. How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up 'regime change' propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots.”
By immediately acting on Aljazeera’s report, Javad Zarif not only revealed the likely source of the program’s information and funding but also ignited a social media backlash among Iranians that was later reported by other news outlets.
Euronews website published an article titled “Javad Zarif asks Twitter to confront users from Albania” and wrote: “Javad Zarif’s tweet was heavily criticized and many users wrote that they are neither robots nor fake and they don’t tweet from Albania.”
Twitter like a vast majority of social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, etc.) is officially banned in Iran. Nonetheless, Iranian officials and their followers have unrestricted access to these websites. Ordinary Iranians use proxies to circumvent state censorship and use anonymous handles and names to speak out against the Iranian regime. The list of Iranian activists who have been charged and sentenced to long prison terms for criticizing the Iranian regime on the internet and defending human rights is long.
Sattar Beheshti, an Iranian blogger, and human rights activist, is a stark case of arrest, torture and subsequent death in prison that sheds light on the dangers Iranian internet activists face.
And that makes the whole situation more pitiful for the Iranian regime when its foreign minister openly asks Twitter’s CEO to ban Iranian activists. One should remind him that unlike mullah-ruled Iran, the rest of the world isn’t a dark place and departed from the medieval rule a few hundred years ago.
The scenery shows also how vulnerable the Iranian regime feels despite its constant saber rattling and muscle flexing. By pointing the finger toward Tirana, Iran gives the address to it real nemesis and alternative.


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