Google, Facebook, and Twitter are removing social media accounts of real life Iranians who are falsely dubbed as “government trolls.” Student journalist Sayed Mousavi warns “this is just the tip of an iceberg.”
By Ben Norton
Under apparent government pressure, big tech corporations in the United States have tightened their social media grip, censoring accounts that criticize the US government and its allies.
Under the spell of Russiagate hysteria promoted incessantly by the US government and corporate media, social media accounts that were identified by shady private cybersecurity firms as supposed “Russian trolls” were targeted first. Then pro-Venezuelan government websites like the state-funded media outlet TeleSUR English and even the independent Venezuela Analysis had their Facebook pages temporarily removed.
Now Silicon Valley has set its sights on Iran. While the Donald Trump administration is banning Iranians from traveling and imposing suffocating sanctions on their country, Big Tech is banning them from using social media.
Google (which owns YouTube), Facebook (which owns Instagram), and Twitter have removed hundreds of Iranian social media accounts that have been accused — without any evidence — of being linked to the government in Tehran. These suspensions were based on a questionable, thinly sourced report by the American cybersecurity firm FireEye, which is led by former US military officers.
But contrary to what numerous corporate media reports are claiming, some of the Iranian accounts being banned are in fact not operated by the government. In fact, many are average Iranians whose opinions do not fit into the tightly managed, pro-war Washington consensus.
An Iranian student and independent journalist whose social media account was suspended is now speaking out.
Sayed Mousavi ran a fairly popular Twitter account under the handle @SayedMousavi7, where he reported factually on Iranian affairs and dispelled propaganda about his country.
After being banned, he recorded a video that was tweeted by iranmilitaryvlog, a political economist who reports on Iran.
SeyedMousavi7 was banned from Twitter after a major censorship campaign claiming he is part of a "propaganda ring." He's actually a student from #Iran and came to discuss politics just like everyone else. When it comes to voicing opinions, he says the platform is rigged. pic.twitter.com/StSI8caMp7
— iranmilitaryvlog 🇮🇷 (@irmilitaryvlog) August 23, 2018
“This is just the tip of an iceberg”
“Twitter is rigged; Facebook is rigged,” Mousavi said. “We’ve heard a lot of news recently about different pages and groups being banned out of Facebook, banned out of Twitter. I woke up yesterday seeing my page was taken down on Twitter, announcing that they’ve dismantled this Iranian ‘network of disinformation.'”
“What worries me is that, I was just a student doing my bit of what I can do to journalism to counter just a little bit of the huge amount of disinformation being put about my country,” he continued.
Mousavi pointed out that Twitter’s second-largest shareholder is the billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who in fact owns more stocks than Twitter’s own co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey.
He also noted that Facebook works with the Israeli government, censoring Palestinian social media accounts at its request.
“I believe that this is just the tip of an iceberg of what we have to expect in the near future on social media and the media,” Mousavi said.
“It’s really a burden upon us, different anti-Zionist, different anti-imperialist groups, to make our voices heard. We need to diversity our platforms. We need to popularize our struggle to get our side heard,” he added.
Mousavi is appealing his suspension, but noted that “even if Twitter accepts my appeal, I think they have made their message quite clear, loud and clear.”
Growing threat of US government-backed social media censorship
Since the 2016 presidential election, the US government has heavily pressured corporate tech giants to crack down on social media. While Russia, Venezuela, and now Iran have been targeted for censorship, US allies like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey have continued running their own notorious troll propaganda campaigns on social media, completely unabated.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald warned in December 2017, “Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments.” Since then, the repression has only grown.
Grayzone Project editor Max Blumenthal addressed the growing threat of US government-backed social media censorship in an interview with journalist Abby Martin on our podcast Moderate Rebels. Martin’s own show, The Empire Files, was forced off air due to US sanctions on Venezuela, which have prevented her and her team from being paid.