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April 27, 2023 2:26 pm

Iran Waging Foreign Influence Campaign on Social Media: ADL Report


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The national flags of China and Iran fly in Tiananmen Square during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Beijing, China, February 14, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The Republic of Iran’s state media is using Facebook and Twitter to spread antisemitism, maneuvering around social media bans from YouTube and Western airwaves, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

Iranian Press TV, a state run news network launched in 2007, has “waged a foreign influence campaign,” leveraging its audience of 11.5 million followers to promote conspiracies of Jewish control of global affairs, American police departments, and the English monarchy, the report, titled State Hate: How Iran’s Press TV Uses Social Media to Promote Anti-Jewish Hatred, argues.

Press TV has also accused Jews of orchestrating 9/11 and the Covid-19 pandemic, fabricating the horrors of the Holocaust, and has aired interviews with Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. One of the outlet’s latest projects, Palestine Declassified, a video series, reaches over 7.2 followers and includes presentations by accused antisemites such as David Miller, a former University of Bristol professor who was fired for harassing Jewish students. Fifty-one percent of Palestine Declassified’s content is viewed by Western audiences, the report said, and its website amasses over a million viewers a month.

“What’s so disturbing is the extent to which this hateful propaganda is being spread beyond Iranian audiences to reach potentially millions of people globally on the major social media platforms,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said on Thursday in a press release. “Providing that kind of reach to this kind of antisemitic bile is inexcusable, and we urge Meta and Twitter to immediately launch an investigation and to take action to prevent Press TV and the Iranian regime’s other media outlets from misusing these social platforms for harm.”

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The ADL and CCDH called on Meta, which owns Facebook, and Twitter to set and enforce rules against posting antisemitic content, factor previous bans of certain outlets when assessing if their content violates their rules, and designating Palestine Declassified as a “foreign state hate operation.”

“Press TV is a tool of Iranian state influence which exists solely to promote damaging propaganda to the rest of the world, most notably hateful views of Jewish people, the Holocaust, as well as LGBTQ+ and women’s rights,” Imran Ahmed, CEO of the CCDH said. “Facebook and Twitter are complicit in providing Iranian state propagandists with the reach and amplification they need to evade domestic broadcasts bans, and influence millions of new viewers in the West.”

Facebook and Twitter have previously been accused of allowing antisemitic content on their platforms.

In March, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) issued a “Digital Terrorism and Hate Report Card” indicating that major social media platforms have had significant problems addressing and moderating the proliferation of antisemitic content on their sites. Facebook, which also owns and administers Instagram, earned a C, while TikTok and Twitter were given a D and D-. Google and Reddit received the highest grades of all platforms assessed by SWC, earning and B and B-.

As previously reported by The Algemeiner, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which has over 500 million users, has brought droves of neo-Nazis and extremists to the platform, according to a report published by Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) in February.

Separate data compiled by Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) with support from the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) shows that antisemitic tweets mentioning George Soros and “globalists” have doubled since he first offered to buy it in April. Additionally, “Groyper accounts,” i.e. those operated by neo-Nazis, grew by roughly 2,000 percent on the day Musk announced that he would join Twitter’s board and by 1,000 percent since his acquisition of it was completed.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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