Big Tech Corporations Are Now Censoring Iranian Social Media Accounts – A Banned Student Journalist Speaks out

By: Ben Norton | August 24, 2018
Sayed Mousavi
Sayed Mousavi, the Iranian student journalist whose Twitter account was suspended in a "fake news" crackdown on Iran

Big Tech corporations in the United States have tightened their social media dragnet, censoring accounts that criticize the US government and its allies.

In a 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. Rather, average Iranians are being silenced in this “fake news” paranoia.

An Iranian student and independent journalist whose social media account was suspended is 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.

“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 likewise 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 and Israel 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 in detail the growing threat of US government-backed social media censorship in an interview with journalist Abby Martin on the podcast Moderate Rebels, which this author co-hosts. Martin’s own show, The Empire Files, was forced off air due to US sanctions on Venezuela.

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Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a producer and reporter for The Real News. His work focuses primarily on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, media criticism, and movements for economic and social justice. Ben Norton was previously a staff writer at Salon and AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.