In August, a cyber-security company FireEye revealed how Tehran based social media accounts were related to Iran cyber propaganda campaign. The consequence of which led to major social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – delete accounts related to the Iranian disinformation campaign.
As per the investigation led by the cybersecurity firm, the Tehran-based network systematically used 70 websites that strategically pushed propaganda material to achieve interests of Islamic Republic. However, the recent investigative reports are now evaluating the impact of the cyber-attack.
As per the recent impact evaluation report, Iran’s disinformation campaign launched on major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has affected 15 countries and the material has already been circulated to more than half a million people every month.
As per investigation reports, more than dozens of these propaganda websites have been active since 2012. They have disguised the websites as regular news sites located in various regions and were regularly promoted on social media adding to its boasted million followers.
Going by a report published in Reuters, a news site that claimed to be based in Egyptian capital, Cairo and promised its readers with “true news” in a bid to “expand the scope of freedom of expression in the Arab world” was not based in the claimed location. Also, other contact details such as phone numbers were not working.
This makes it quite evident that it was a website maintained to push in pro-Iranian news influencing the perception of Egyptian audience in an environment of strict censorship.
During the investigation, it was identified that the Iranian disinformation campaign focused on targeting very volatile regions in middle east such as Egypt and Yemen.
The operation in these places makes it convenient for Iran to create a pro-perception amidst ongoing battle between Arab Coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Recent reports have suggested that more than 70 sites were focused on targeting readers in Yemen in this context.
It has been also indicated in the investigative report that in regions like Russia and Sudan, it aimed at creating discontent against the political power as there has been a recent shift in alignment from Tehran to Riyadh.
Apart from the mentioned sites, there are other sites that focus on creating the favorable perception for Iran to achieve its interests in the regions in context to diplomacy with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
A newly revealed batch of websites delivers news in up to 16 languages, including Urdu and Azerbaijani.
The further investigation revealed that at least 21 of the sites shared phone and address details with an online agency called the International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM), which says on its website it is headquartered in Tehran.
The on date evidence clarifies that the Iranian disinformation campaign has been working strategically winning ground wars through cyber warfare techniques.