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Iran and the Misleading Internet Propaganda

Iran and the Misleading Internet Propaganda

Thursday, 30 August, 2018 - 10:30
Salman Al-dossary
Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
Not only have the US sanctions besieged the Iranian regime, as Internet giants interfered to stop Tehran’s illegal attempts to influence Internet users around the world, after Reuters revealed Wednesday a wide platform of Iranian anonymous websites and accounts on social media in 11 different languages, where the network publishes information in several languages including English, French, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Russian, Hindi, Azerbaijani, Turkish and Spanish.

Ten websites have been discovered, along with hundreds of fake Iranian accounts on various sites such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Iran’s International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) uses its network of sites, including YouTube, the breaking news service, the mobile phone application store and the network of satirical images in order to disseminate information from the Iranian television, the government news agency (FARS), and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV network. This information goes to fictitious pages that appear to be reliable news sites from the United States or the United Kingdom. Then, these sites publish their news on the network without the readers being able to know the source of the information and whether it is correct.

The disclosure of the network comes as Facebook and other companies say many social networking accounts and websites are part of an Iranian project to secretly influence public opinion in other countries.

Iran’s misleading propaganda is a simple part of a major strategy through which the public opinion of any country is manipulated and guided so that it appears to be emanating from within, while the magnitude of the negative impact coming from outside is devastating. This strategy has not only exploited the great chaos of social media, but also the reliable sites on the Internet, to give great credibility to the false information when promoted on social networking platforms.

This has led a number of technology companies to launch a war against the Iranian government, after accusing it of being behind operations of “misleading propaganda” over the internet, which have targeted users in many countries of the world, beginning with the United States, the United Kingdom and some countries in the Middle East.

Facebook and Twitter have both announced that they have deleted hundreds of accounts, most of which are located in Iran, when they turned out to be adopting a coordinated “misleading behavior.” The two companies have received information from FireEyes for electronic security, confirming that the accounts promote Iranian propaganda including a discussion on issues that are against several countries in the Middle East, mainly Saudi Arabia. Google then announced the removal of 39 channels on YouTube linked to state-run Islamic Republic of Iranian Broadcasting (IRIB).

Without strict international laws to combat misinformation coming from the internet, it would be impossible to control the social networks that have become the spearhead through which billions of people exchange false information.

Without clear mechanisms by the internet giants - Google and Twitter – that help to speed up the closure of accounts that mislead and spread extremism and fabricated news, misinformation and deception will continue on a large scale. Unfortunately, misleading propaganda cannot be discovered until it has falsified facts and published thousands of false news among billions of people.

As much as the internet provides great positive services to more than three billion people in the world, it has become at the same time a threat to internet users because it is now manipulated for purposes far from the goals of British Inventor Tim Berners-Lee, who says he is "concerned" about his invention 29 years after he presented the original proposal for the Web that the world needs every day.

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