Iran's social media message and its connection to conspiracy theories
Runnels, Robert C.
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This research explored the strategy behind Iran’s English-language media campaigns on the Internet, particularly with regard to Iran’s use of social media, to determine its possible impact on homeland security in the United States. A qualitative analysis of data from the Facebook pages of Iran’s PressTV and the Young Journalists Club was conducted, and the author determined that the best method to determine Iran’s messaging strategy would be to closely follow the statements made by Iran’s Supreme Leader. The study also found rumors and conspiracy theories contributed to a large part of the Iranian social media message, and there was a significant connection to Western websites that featured conspiracy theory content. Although the Iranian Facebook message has only achieved modest inroads, its connection to conspiracy theories is troubling. As Daniel Jolley and Karen M. Douglas point out in their 2014 article, The Social Consequences of Conspiracism, conspiracy theories increase distrust in the government and inhibit future political involvement. Conspiracy theories and rumors can also be used in disinformation campaigns, and the 1968 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders linked the spread of rumors to civil unrest. Rather than ceding a portion of the Internet to Iran’s messengers, this study recommends an American counter-messaging strategy and the use of technological advances to defeat Iran’s Internet censorship in order to give all Iranians unfettered access to Western media sources.
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