Iran has long been talking about the dangers of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and social channels to the people, culture and national security. As time goes by more and more information is now being uncovered the extent such social networks are embedded into the security apparatus of the west (mainly USA) as well as their addictive nature. Such shows being made on Netflix like The Social Dilemma or The great hack which describes how Cambridge Analytica used private user data to conclude fraud on elections in many world countries including USA.
Facebook is now facing a dilemma, having hired psychologists, sociologists and the top UI/UX experts to maximise the addiction to their platforms so successfully, they have now split world society from America to Africa to Asia where they have lost control on all their social media platforms to hate speech towards people, countries, groups and religions. It is now impossible to control groups who have taken control of these social media channels in their respected countries to stop the spread of extremist ideology of hate with agenda. Now Facebook is more a force of evil than a force of good in the world, from the fact that they are not paying the correct amount of tax in most countries they operate in to the fact that they have taken political control in many countries where social media is more of a trusted news source topics than newspapers and news channels thus empowering the small groups with major voice to shift public agenda.
This was perfectly highlighted by Brexit in the UK, to the election of Trump as well as extremism in Myanmar and anti-Islamic hate in India today! Iran too is suffering from Social Media Addiction. During the protests due to rise in petrol prices, Iran temporarily shut down the internet as there was wide spread miss information by small extremist groups such as MEK, Saudi sponsored Iran International and American funded Manoto TV. Soon the protests died down, anyone causing public damage arrested and slowly Iran started to open up the internet again, even though the intranet was fully active and working in Iran with internal hosted sites all operating including banks, internal apps and app stores. However peoples main struggle was to login Instagram to check what’s happening as they view the social network as a source of information, news, entertainment. It was widely reported people are so addicted to scrolling down their phone for pictures during the internet shutdown they were simply scrolling their own camera roll images on their phone just to get a small hit, relieve from their Instagram addiction.
Iran is one of the few world countries where Instagram is actually more famous and popular than Facebook, as a society which is very image conscious and takes extreme care of their reputation and portraying their best self to the world (no matter how fake!) it’s understandable why Iranians are more Instagram focused. This also applies in some other Middle Eastern countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
What’s interesting is the average Instagram user views the site / app 21 times, this means they will open 21 different images or pages or make 21 different interaction with the app or website. This number in Iran is actually nearer to 40. Compare that to Linkedin where the average interaction is 6-8 times, and in Iran 5 times per user. This extreme is further still when you split desktop vs mobile users of the social media sites and apps with Iran overwhelmingly dominating via mobile view or mobile App vs the rest of the world.
Unfortunately for Iran, the addiction damage has already been done, people are hooked and can’t get enough of drama’s, entertainment, fake news and hearsay on social media as well as dwelling on the fake life of the few wealthy portraying Iranian individuals posting pictures with rented cars or holidays they can barely afford. This was best shown by the Instagram page Rich Kids of Tehran which has had much coverage in the world media. Most of the people in those pictures are actually average Iranians in rented villas, or happen to be at a party invited by friends or in rented cars or holidays which was paid for by another person, but being tagged or ending up on such pages for a time was the dream of many Iranians at any cost, it was the “it” thing to do.
Wealthy Iranians have historically always remained under the radar, kept themselves to themselves and gone about with their business, however with the youth today and the upcoming genz wealthy (many from corruption, few from hard work) social media has been a tool to legitimize themselves and earn public respect, gain celebrity status and make their dreams come true by earning huge sums advertising brands and products online without declaring their income for tax. This is now culturally engrained within Iranian society, where if you don’t have an Instagram page, you’re in the odd few in a country where even grandparents are now on Instagram.
With such mass appeal, anti-Iranian governments and forces have used such channels to spread hate, disinformation within the public. Israel and America have been the primary benefactors of such strategies, often sharing fake videos and statistics of protests and public hate for the regime. It’s very easy to trend a video within the Iranian Instagram these days specially if it’s about regime brutality or anti regime politics with smart political psychology behind such propaganda, and later when it’s reported such videos are fake, taken our of context, the damage is already done and the content is already psychologically engraved into the users mind and the seed of anti-government hate planted. This is perfectly shown by the Manoto channel on Instagram where only bad news is ever reported from Iran, this channel has never once reported anything good about the Iranian government or any good news to come out of Iran, it has slowly psychologically manipulated Iranian public opinion using social media that they live in the worse country in the world, they are treated like animals and then portraying Iran during the days of the shah thus associating Iranians with deep psychological triggers, even those who weren’t alive during the shah that this regime is much worse than the brutal one during the times of the Shah dictatorship. Everything Manoto has is really a copy of different news channels across the world from the BBC to CNN as well as psychops tactics used by intelligence agencies for mass manipulation and thus far has worked wonders for them in Iran. Much like the cheap coup of 1953 where with just $1 million Iran’s government fell, manoto with a budget thus far of about $200-300 million is slowly having a similar cheap digital coup in Iran. They have perfectly manipulated CNN’s ireport so Iranian’s use their phones and become self-made reporters without fact checking anything, as long as your report is a complaint, anti-government, anti islam, anti-shia, it will be aired and reported thus keeping the Iranian public in a constant state of self-hate which in turn makes them more likely to do provocative acts ordered by people in Manoto. Further they are building a databank army of people who send them reports and videos to conduct potential anti regime actions with false promises of freedom, fame or financial commitments.
This channel’s core strategy was a JV between CIA and Mossad to undermine Iran from within, thus making the regime weaker giving any outside power the ability to undermine Iran’s security. The truth is the channel started innocently to many viewers eyes with TV shows like come dine with me which was a copy cat show called befarmayid sham, and using many foreign dramas with Iranian subtitles or voice overs the channel started as a source of entertainment and as the CIA/Mossad saw the need to weaken the regime the channel slowly but very systematically started making political documentaries, praising he shah of Iran, never reporting any wrong doings of the shah and everything possibly wrong happening in Iran, fake debates with only anti regime figures no-one knew or recognized each taking tuns to bash Iran with their own agendas, and slowly taking advantage of Iran’s public view keeping their ears firmly on their interest pulse.
If you actually sit and watch every ireport from Manoto reports in Iran where people send complaints and tally them in total, you will come to a figure of less than 20,000 videos (in a country with a population of 83 million people!). But the way Manoto embeds these within social media and satellite news segments strategically, it makes iranains believe there are hundreds of thousands of such videos being sent to them thus forming a herd anti-regime psychology. Thus Manoto is now seen as a more trusted source of news than IRIB itself which is Iran’s own state broadcaster. As a foreign government it only takes one phone call to the Manoto board to spread fake news within Iran which can damage society from increasing the price of the US Dollar being traded in Iran to forming protests in specific regions within the country, Manoto has dominated Iranian society on Instagram.
Where manoto dominates Instagram, MEK dominates twitter. Funded by Saudi Arabia and Israel, MEK has a huge army of trolls on twitter which it uses to abuse Iranains who have legitimate views and do not want a culture of hate and terror within the country, this applies to journalists, people and even businesses and channels. With a whole array of fake twitter verified personalities like Heshmat Alavi who to this day twitter refuses to suspend or report who is really behind the verified personality taking advantage of mass fake followership and spreading fake news and articles on social media. While the average Iranian doesn’t really use twitter, the business and political community as well as the journalist community in Iran is active on this social media platform and all are targeted by the MEK psyops units with farms of fake users who make irrelevant hashtags fake trend to fake news reports within the country trying to capture the attention of foreign media to report on such fake stories for their own political agenda. It’s widely reported the MEK fake twitter troll farm uses the same technology as the own Saudi government fake twitter troll farm. Such fake spam users are so common in Saudi Arabia where now with just $200 you can make what ever you like trend in the middle east for 6 hours by hiring one of these commercial farms in the country. This was recently reported by a BBC click special.
Linkedin where once a network for professionals has slowly become a network for spies, hackers and espionage. It’s unfortunate these networks are so slow to adapt to modern day abuse. With the latest world trend to pinpoint people with high level access on this platform, friend directly or become a friend of a friend and gain personal trust for hacking or espionage purposes. This has been widely reported within iran over the last decade with the CIA, Mossad secret services favorite goto channels to attract Iranians for their own agendas knowing or unwittingly giving them information and access. Unfortunately due to the nature of such channel it’s probably one of the most potentially damaging for Iran’s national security while monitored it can never conclusively become secured unless it’s fully banned. While b2b channels should be encouraged within the Iranian community it should be done in a incubator where it’s controlled for abuse.
As conclusion, it’s our view that Iran should ban all social networks completely, while slowly developing internal alternatives which are not copycats. Iran doesn’t need an army of mobile phone addicts, in a society where it’s high level social interactions was an envy of the world. A cold ban will inevitably kick the addiction of many with slow introduction of internal alternatives.
“There are only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users‘: illegal drugs and software. ” — Edward Tufte