Iranian paramilitary commanding general Basij said Thursday that his social media activists would receive equipment and technical support to strengthen their work.
Brigadier General Gholamreza Soleimani was speaking to Defa Press, the armed forces news agency, two days after telling the Basij Digital Content Creation event in Tehran that a “popular network in cyberspace … means that the Iranian nation has deployed technology on the battlefield. “
In September, Soleimani said an “era of cyberspace hit-and-run” was over and the Basij needed a more systematic approach.
Ali Fadavi, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which oversees the Basji, warned in a speech Wednesday the members of the Basij that the Islamic Republic was under attack and that the “cultural war … was happening inside our homes. and in cellphones in our pockets and hands. ”He called on them to“ enter the battlefield ”.
Organized trolling was for a time a feature of Iranian politics, helping to spread untruths and unfounded allegations. Iranian authorities, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, are calling state-sponsored social media activists “soft war cadets.”
Iranian activists often allege that the IRGC and other state bodies are sponsoring organized social media trolls to anonymously threaten, attack and discredit dissidents and to spread false information.
The Basij has around 5 million members, according to leading academic authority Saeed Golkar, with around 200,000 cadres and special Basij, who can serve as paramilitary support to the police and security forces. Thousands of members are active on social media to counter news, information and critical opinions disseminated on social media, including Persian-speaking media abroad.
Apart from maintaining a large network of social media activists, the Islamic Republic is also devoting an unknown amount of resources to controlling the internet, blocking thousands of websites, and banning foreign social media platforms such as Facebook, You Tube and Twitter. Almost all Iranians have to resort to VPNs and other tools to gain access to blocked sites.
A recent study published by the Media Quarterly in Iran shows that the daily readership of Iranian newspapers and the audience for state television have dropped dramatically over the past two years due to various factors, including loss of public confidence, censorship and more great popularity of online media and social media as a source of information and information.
The Telegram messaging app, for example – which is blocked but accessible through VPNs and anti-filtering software – has more than 49 million users in Iran with at least 150 channels with over a million subscribers. Instagram, which is not blocked, has a similar number of users. Many Iranian politicians and their supporters, including former Main President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as a range of activists, have popular channels on Telegram and Instagram accounts.