Ali Honari and I have a new article out together analyzing the manipulative qualities of the online presence of the Iranian exile organization, the Mojaheddin-e Khalqh. We argue that it’s important to look at the transnational and historical dimensions of online political activity in order to properly contextualize it and understand it’s potential influences. Here’s the abstract:
In this paper, we reveal the understudied transnational dimensions of politically manipulative activity on social media. Specifically, we identify and investigate a bot-like Twitter network associated with the controversial organization of Iranian political exiles, the Mojaheddin-e Khalgh (MEK). Tracing and contextualizing the Twitter debate around women’s rights within the 2016 Iranian Parliamentary election, our analysis contributes to the scholarship on diaspora and digital media by drawing attention to the often-neglected potentials for non-state actors such as diaspora groups to make use of social media to promote political propaganda that advances militarist violence. We demonstrate how the MEK network’s “online performance of civic participation” is typical of a bot-net of weak influence inside Iran, but that the aims and extent of its influence can only be fully understood by situating it within a historical and transnational analysis of Iranian diasporic media and politics, one that takes complex US-Iran diplomacy dynamics into consideration.