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Daily News Analysis

How the US manipulates social media, and the violent riots in Iran

Crescent International

While the United States and its NATO allies claim to be democracies where there is freedom of speech, although Edward Snowden and Julian Assange would disagree, seldom does one hear or read about how they manipulate social media platforms for propaganda purposes.

Such accusations are hurled at Russia and China, branding them as “totalitarian states”.

Occasionally, some studies expose the dubious practices of western regimes.

Take the case of the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) which published a detailed report in August on how the US manipulates social media platforms to push its propaganda.

Many people around the world would probably not even have heard of this report because major western media outlets barely mentioned it.

If such a report were about Venezuela or Iran, for instance, it would be top news for weeks.

Remember how long did Russia’s alleged manipulation of the social media remained top news on major media networks?

While it is old news that the US and other NATO regimes use social media for propaganda purposes and public manipulation, the narratives in Stanford’s report are much more interesting than the technical aspects it examines.

The topic which is the focus of SIO report is particularly relevant today as the western corporate media continues to project violent rioters in Iran as some kind of champions of a freedom movement.

In its report listing various narratives pushed by pro-western propaganda against Islamic Iran, one is of particular interest.

The SIO report states:

“Some of these narratives took aim at Iranian state officials for being too moderate, but any negative content about the Iranian government was infrequent. The hardliner accounts tweeted during the same period as the anti-regime assets and used similar tactics, but their purpose is unclear. These assets did not share anti-U.S. content, as one would expect from nationalistic voices in Iran. Most of the hardliner tweets came from just one account, a self-declared “political science expert” whose account had 3,769 followers and was created on Nov. 25, 2020. This account mostly posted on Twitter and a related Telegram channel about the progress of Shi’a Islam over time. For example, in one tweet, the account asserted that Shiites were now able to exert influence in the Middle East after previously playing a more submissive role. This tweet received 84 likes. A Facebook and Instagram account linked to this Twitter account are also suspended, though they were not included in the dataset shared by Meta.”

The above quoted content reminds prudent regional analysts that sectarianism in the Muslim world is often a foreign-instigated phenomenon rather than an organic feature of the region.

This is true both on the macro and micro levels.

Prior to active US presence in the region via its occupation of Iraq, Sunni-Shia conflict was marginal and rarely in the news.

It was buried in academic books of history.

After 2003, Sunni-Shia conflict became the primary focus of most western media outlets, whose “experts” had minimal idea what Islam is, let alone the Sunni and Shia schools of Islamic thought.

More recently, after Catherine Shakhdam was exposed as a pro-zionist propagandist, it was interesting to remember her so-called Muslim social media activity.

It revolved mostly around staunchly pro-Shia narratives.

While SIO’s report once again brings to light the manipulative power of social media, it should be kept in mind that this platform acts as a supplement to the actual propaganda war.

Without the backing of traditional media outlets, many social media users take content on social media with some skepticism.

For example, while reporting on the recent riots in Iran, almost no western media outlet referred to the fact that there is a CCTV footage of Mahsa Amini collapsing in a public place when approached by Iran’s law enforcement personnel.

There was no physical contact with her by the female police officers before her collapse.

Even if the western corporate media were to somehow find the footage questionable, basic journalistic ethics would require them to at least mention it as a fact presented by the other side.

This, however, was almost never done.

As a result, social media is running wild with speculation about her tragic death unquestioned by the corporate media.

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