Report: Iran Adopts Russia-Style Trolling, Cyberwar Tactics

AP Photo/John Locher, File
AP Photo/John Locher, File

Reports surfacing this week indicate that the Iranian regime has deployed online bots to push back against the people who want it dismantled and have relied on Internet access to organize protests.

Iran, like Russia, reportedly uses cyber trolls and bots to push its propaganda to sway and influence social media trends in its favor.

The Saudi news outlet Al-Arabiya claimed in a recent analysis piece that the Iranian regime has activated “all sleeping and active ‘fake persons’ in various social networks” in response to the widespread social uprisings throughout the Islamic republic.

The outlet notes that the objective of these bots and trolls is to combat information against the regime from members of Iran’s protesting civil society with their stream of pro-government propaganda and to intimidate Iranians who are intent on seeing the regime’s fall.

In January, Breitbart News reported, “Anti-regime Iranians intent on seeing the dismantling of Iran’s Islamic regime have gone to war against pro-regime loyalists over social media, reportedly using bots to saturate Twitter and Instagram with propaganda against those seeking true democracy and freedom.”

However, the Al-Arabiya analysis notes that the Iranian regime’s army of trolls differs from Russian trolls in that the Iranians are far less advanced than their Russian counterparts, including lacking the ability to create websites, pages, and communities on Facebook on a mass scale. Furthermore, Iranian activists reportedly told Al-Arabiya that Iran may have approximately 5,000 government-affiliated trolls working on its behalf to undermine the second consecutive week of protests that seek to topple Iran’s dictatorial regime.

While social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Viber are blocked in Iran, requiring everyday Iranians to use VPNs to access them, the country’s leadership can use these same services without interruption. In fact, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sends out tweets from his account on a near-daily basis, as do President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Al-Arabiya noted that sometimes, “Iranian government-backed trolls cooperate with Iranian government hackers.” For example, thousands of American and Israeli citizens – mainly military, journalists, and experts based in Washington, DC – were reportedly targeted by these entities.

One such pro-regime bot on Twitter tweeted, “I’ve just arrived and no one is here. Why are you lying?” in response to thousands taking to the streets, throughout various cities in Iran, to protest Iran’s regime.

Read the entire Al-Arabiya report here.

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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