Iran hard-liners turn to social media
Iran hard-liners turn to social media
Across Iran’s political spectrum, posting on social media has increasingly replaced street campaigning as the crucial way to rally supporters and attack opponents — even if some of the most popular sites such as Twitter remain officially banned.
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the hard-line Tehran mayor, has used Twitter and messaging app Telegram, which has 25 million users in Iran, to release documents accusing his rivals of corruption.
When moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking re-election, visited the site of a mining disaster last week, conservatives posted a video of his car being attacked by protesters, which quickly went viral.
Another conservative candidate, cleric Ebrahim Raisi, has live-streamed his rallies on Instagram and given unprecedented online question-and-answer sessions.
It marks a significant shift in a country where conservatives have tended to respect bans on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — leaving reformists a relatively free run on social media.
The bans date back to the 2009 election when Twitter and Facebook were widely used to rally support for reformists and then to organize mass protests when they claimed the result was rigged in favor of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“The reformist camp always had the upper hand on social media” during 2009 and 2013 elections, journalist Sadra Mohaghegh told AFP.
Conservatives finally came round after a massive defeat in urban areas at last year’s parliamentary elections, in which reformists scored a clean sweep of Tehran’s 30 seats.
“Until then the conservatives had not realized the power of social media, but after that, they realized they had to join the game,” said Mohaghegh, who writes for reformist daily Shargh.
Reformists have continued to score hits on social media.
When hard-liner Ghalibaf claimed he supported female empowerment in the workplace, critics published documents showing he had called for gender-segregated offices at Tehran municipal offices.
But Iran’s hard-liners have some powerful assistance.
Some 18,000 “volunteers” regularly scour the Internet for anything deemed subversive, a top judiciary official said in February.
The arrests in March of 12 heads of popular reformist channels on Telegram sent a chill through the online community.
Six are still in jail, despite criticism from Rouhani and another lawmaker who blamed the elite Revolutionary Guards and told them to stay out of politics.
Rouhani has made civil liberties, including online freedom, a key theme of his campaign.
His administration has rolled out high-speed Internet across the country, making it harder for the authorities to limit access.
“The era of one state broadcaster dominating people’s minds is over,” he said at a campaign rally on Saturday.
“We will set up the communications infrastructure so that each one of you can become the broadcaster with your mobile phones. We will not let Iran become isolated once again.”
The online mudslinging has smeared both sides in a bitterly fought contest. But the use of social media has at least boosted voter interest in the election, and officials are keen to see a high turnout in order to buttress the regime’s legitimacy.
“I think everyone has embraced the competitive campaign atmosphere — it helps build up the hype and enthusiasm,” Mohaghegh said.
Facebook to clearly label political advertising in Britain, CTO says
LONDON: Facebook will introduce new measures to boost transparency around adverts in Britain by June this year and require political ads to be clearly labelled, the firm’s Chief Technology Officer told a British parliamentary committee.
In a written submission to the UK parliament’s media committee, Mike Schroepfer said those wanting to run political adverts would have to complete an authorization process and the messages would also have to display who paid for them.
Facebook has said that the personal information of about 87 million users might have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.
Lawmakers have also raised concern over the use of social media in Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union in 2016.
“I want to start by echoing our CEO, Mark Zuckerberg: what happened with Cambridge Analytica represents a breach of trust, and we are deeply sorry. We made mistakes and we are taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Schroepfer wrote.
Earlier this month, Zuckerberg apologized to US senators for issues that have beset Facebook, including shortcomings over data protection.
But the 33-year-old Internet mogul managed to deflect any specific promises to support any congressional regulation of the world’s largest social media network and other US Internet companies.
Schroepfer, who was appearing before the British media committee on Thursday, said it was clear Facebook had not done enough to ensure its tools from “potentially being used for harm” or take a broad enough view of its responsibility.
“That was a mistake,” he wrote.