The social media landscape in Iran is complex and contradictory. Some platforms, notably Facebook and Twitter, are banned while others, such as Facebook-owned Instagram, are not. Despite this, millions of young, tech-savvy Iranians, regularly access blocked platforms using virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers. Adding to the contradictions, Ayatollah Khamenei rails against Western decadence yet like other senior Iranian leaders, he has official pages on Instagram and on the ostensibly banned Facebook and Twitter. Meanwhile, young Iranians use Instagram to post content that is antithetical to the regime’s morality and social norms and native social media platforms directly imitate or clone popular platforms while having suspiciously similar lists of “rules”. What explains all these contradictions in Iranian social media and the government’s attitude to it? Continue reading
Here at the International Centre for Security Analysis we are interested in developments in social media and how we can understand social networks as valuable information sources. We produced a report on this topic: A Structural Analysis of Social Media Networks which is designed to be a reference guide for analysts and policy-makers. We also produced a podcast where we discussed the concepts in the report in more detail.
One of the most interesting features of social networks is their role in facilitating the emergence of communities. In the report we draw a comparison between Facebook and Reddit on the one hand and Twitter and Instagram on the other. Facebook with its group function and Reddit with its subreddits both have dedicated site structures for communities to form. In contrast, Twitter and Instagram have no formal group structures built into their sites and yet we see large, cohesive and resilient communities on those platforms. How do these communities form and how do they survive?
It is well documented that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has an active and well-developed media presence, especially on social networks. Recently, Robert Hannigan, director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), wrote in the Financial Times that social networks have become the “command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals”.