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HomeGeopolitical CompassWest & Centeral AsiaIranian Digital Influence Efforts: Guerrilla Broadcasting For The Twenty-First Century

Iranian Digital Influence Efforts: Guerrilla Broadcasting For The Twenty-First Century

Authors: Emerson T. Brooking, Suzanne Kianpour

Affiliation: Atlantic Council

Organization/Publisher: Atlantic Council

Date/Place: February 11, 2020, Washington, U.S.

Type of Literature: Research Paper

Number of Pages: 32


Keywords: Iran, US, Digital world, Internet, Cyber space, Spyware


The paper extensively discusses Iran’s use of internet technology (IT) in its foreign policy. The trigger for this latest study is the assassination of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq by the United States. The authors argue that Iran sees itself engaged in information warfare with Arab adversaries and the US. However, the paper differentiates Russian IT propaganda that peddles lies and falsehood from Iranian online warfare that advances its so-called “moral authority.” The research shows that Tehran has a centralized digital policy with involvement from different government agencies and its goal is linked to Iran’s geopolitical interests. The authors do not rule out that Iran may attempt to interfere in future US elections through use of IT. The research finds that Iran is certainly engaged in the spread of falsehood, but this does not represent the majority of its known digital influence efforts. The study discusses the state control over media houses including TV with its vast network and funding pattern. “Although these news organizations offer competing views of the world, the spectrum of ‘acceptable’ beliefs is dictated by state censors,” the authors claim. It finds that Iran first enforced a major act of digital censorship in 2001 through court rulings, as Internet service providers (ISPs) were subjected to strict monitoring and censorship. The move followed a “general suppression of opposition media” that began in 2000. Laying out suggestions for the US government against Iranian influence in cyber space, the study shows that foreign broadcasting is “perceived as a grave threat” by Iranian government while Iran’s propaganda efforts exemplify the art of indirect “Persian persuasion” and deflection as a “form of public diplomacy under duress.”

By: Riyaz Ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-Resident Research Associate



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