Iran Caught Spreading Disinformation on Social Media Against US, Israel

April 16th, 2020 3:35 PM

Copying notes from China? The Iranian regime has been waging a massive disinformation war to accuse the United States for the COVID-19 virus.

A special report has revealed that Iran has attempted to wage a massive disinformation campaign against the U.S. … but it may want to leave the election meddling to the pros. The International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) specialized in pro-Iran and pro-Palestinian propaganda articles, videos, article and memes but “only accrued around 5,000 followers across platforms,” The Verge observed in its April 15 coverage. The self-described “Digital marketing and Disinformation & analysis” company Graphika released a report of more than 35 pages revealing the Iranian regime’s clumsy attempts to deceive the internet.

Graphika summarized that the IUVM’s “geopolitical approach has consistently reflected that of the Iranian government: It is pro-Iran and pro-Palestinian, while taking every opportunity to criticize Saudi Arabia, the United States, Israel and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”

The propaganda may be seen as comically transparent to some, as Graphika alleged “IUVM copies its content verbatim from Iranian regime sources such as PressTV and the website of Ayatollah Khamenei, but posts it without attribution.”

A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that “Graphika’s report is a good example of how industry and researchers work together to stop influence operations.”

The report also observed that social media companies have not been entirely asleep at the wheel when confronting Iranian subversion:

“Over the past few years, social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have repeatedly removed IUVM accounts from their platforms for being engaged in pro-Iran information operations and deceiving users, and have continued investigating and disrupting this network.”

IUVM has targeted the U.S.’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis for some time:

“As early as February 24, IUVM Press ran an article headlined, ‘Is coronavirus an American creation?’ The article argued that ‘America is the biggest beneficiary to creating a virus that will paralyze China and pose internal challenges to a power that poses a threat to the White House in the economic sphere,’ and called for an international investigation into possible ‘bioterrorism.’”

The report had an extensive list of IUVM’s agenda to spread various narratives, complete with a variety of examples regarding each misinformation campaign from “Blame America” to “Defend China.” It even listed a Twitter account that focused “so exclusively on IUVM content, and content from multiple IUVM channels at that, that it strongly resembles a covert asset run by IUVM to amplify its content.”

The paper then went on to hammer how this hamfisted attempt at subversion “was moderately successful at best: as of March 29, the account numbered 485 followers, even though it was following 1,389 others. None of its recent posts scored more than 4 likes, and its videos averaged 40-60 views. It posted about the virus, but it was not viral itself.”

IUVM even made a political cartoon of a COVID-19 virus featuring President Donald Trump’s signature hairstyle.