Iran Announces Plans for Social Media Monitoring

By Arash Karami, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace announces plans for social media monitoring

The Feb. 26 parliamentary elections are the first elections to take place in Iran during which Telegram will be, by far, the most-used messaging service in the country. Approximately 13 million to 14 million Iranians are on the service.

Iranian media, from Reformist to hard-line outlets, and Iranian officials, from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to lesser-known authorities, all have their own official Telegram accounts.

The ubiquitous use of the messaging service poses a challenge for authorities, which want a big turnout but also one without protests or other gatherings or excessive celebrations.

What has made Telegram so popular, other than it has not yet been blocked, is that many Iranians now have smartphones. According to Seyyed Abul-Hassan Firouzabadi, secretary of Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace, 39 million Iranians own smartphones — that is, approximately half the country’s population.

Speaking on Iranian television Feb. 23, Firouzabadi said, “In this round of elections, we are witnessing widespread access to social media that we have not seen in previous elections.”

He added that during previous balloting, there were approximately 300,000 people with access to smartphones with access to high speed Internet. Firouzabadi did not clarify whether he meant the previous parliamentary elections, in 2012, or the presidential elections in 2013.

Speaking about how quickly news is generated on social media, Firouzabadi said that there are approximately 1,500 news sites in Iran, and that in one day they produced 35,000 news items. Of these 35,000 items, 27%, or 9,450 of them, were related to the elections. Of that 9,450, approximately 1,300 of the items were shared on smartphones.

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