- Published: Wednesday, 27 May 2020
On May 26, the state-run IRNA news agency reported that “Twitter has closed the account of Iran's Embassy in Russia,” according to the media department at the regime’s embassy in Moscow.
Iranian authorities claim that Twitter has shut down this account as well as many other accounts including Jam-e-Jam newspaper’s account affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) without any reason. However, they do not explain why they have banned Iranian people from social media?
Ironically, most Iranian leaders have Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram accounts while they arrest people for circumventing government’s filters to take part in the mentioned social media. On the other hand, the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei addresses Iranian citizens on Twitter or Facebook despite the restrictive law depriving ordinary people of social media networks.
Ahmad Alamolhoda, Khamenei’s representative in Mashhad, the second major city of Iran, has launched a Telegram channel such as many other officials. However, Ahmad Khatami, another Khamenei representative and temporary Friday prayers leader of Tehran had described cyberspace as a mad dog In June 2018.
Furthermore, the Iranian regime has frequently expressed concerns about the cyberspace and citizens participating in social media. Given the regime’s fear of the freedom of expression and people’s awareness of the truth, they endeavor to cut off Iran’s society of the free stream of information by brutal methods.
In this context, Iranian security forces arrest hundreds of social media activists in addition to blocking prominent social networks. The mullahs are also concerned about their concealment and secrecy being revealed. For instance, in recent weeks, the state security forces have detained hundreds of activists under the excuse of “spreading rumors.”
In reality, what officials call rumor is in fact anything that contradicts their propaganda. Meanwhile, they are the main source of rumors. In the domain of coronavirus, different parts of the regime including the Health Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) try to downplay the actual number of victims. However, activists have shown the real number is far higher than the claimed stats by the authorities.
According to the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/ MEK), as of Monday, May 25, the coronavirus death toll exceeded 43,300 in 320 cities across all of Iran’s 31 provinces. However, the Health Ministry spokesperson claimed that the fatalities are merely 7,451, which means less than a sixth of the actual figure.
The Iranian regime has also established a cyber army, which is charged to amplify the mullahs’ propaganda against dissidents in cyberspace. This army is generally composed of veterans and retirees of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) whose job is to spread misinformation about opposition groups, particularly the PMOI/MEK.
The mullahs also employ this army to interfere in the democratic process of elections in different countries and to steal information from universities in other countries. For example, on May 14, the U.S. government announced that Iranian hackers had targeted U.S. universities and health-care firms in a bid to steal intellectual property related to coronavirus treatment and vaccine. This espionage took place while the authorities rejected humanitarian aids.
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