The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has lambasted Facebook, Twitter, and Google for blocking hundreds of accounts on their social network, describing the move as “blocking independent mediums” and a “political and media fiasco.”
On August 23, Google announced that it had blocked YouTube channels and other accounts over a misinformation campaign linked to Iran and IRIB, on the heels of similar moves by Facebook and Twitter.
Google said that by working with cybersecurity firm FireEye it had linked the accounts to IRIB as part of an effort dating to at least January 2017.
"We identified and terminated a number of accounts linked to the IRIB organization that disguised their connection to this effort," Google Vice President Kent Walker said in a statement.
"Actors engaged in this type of influence operation violate our policies, and we swiftly remove such content from our services and terminate these actors' accounts.”
"In addition to the intelligence we received from FireEye, our teams have investigated a broader range of suspicious actors linked to Iran who have engaged in this effort," the company said, referring to an alleged cybersecurity firm, on whose tip it had started the crackdown.
The reasons for terminating the accounts affiliated with IRIB was officially given as misinformation, “misleading moves,” and “spreading fake news.”
Retaliating on August 25, the deputy of IRIB for external affairs, Peyman Jebelli, issued an official statement describing the termination of the accounts as a “blatant case of censorship silencing the voices of independent media.”
Jebelli, who has also managed Iran’s English-speaking Press TV network, added that “the freedom of expression” is a false slogan only good for “adorning the gatherings of those who seek world dominance.”
The statement listed Iran’s Press TV, Spanish-speaking Hispan TV, Arabic-speaking Al Alam, and the Urdu, Azeri, Kurdish, and Bosnian Sahar networks as “independent media” whose social media accounts were terminated for “airing the facts” that the United States and its allies want to hide.
Jebelli boasted that the reason behind the blockage is the popularity of the terminated accounts and their impact on world opinion.
The row over blocking accounts connected to Iran and its propaganda machine initially started on August 21, when American social media giant Facebook terminated hundreds of accounts under the banner of “combatting misinformation.”
The social media pages were identified as “networks of accounts misleading people about what they were doing,” Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said.
Among the accounts was one belonging to a Iranian media organization, the Quest 4 Truth (Q4T), which promotes Islamic values.
Facebook said it worked closely with law enforcement authorities in both the United States and the United Kingdom over the investigation and had also briefed the U.S. Treasury Department and State Department about the move.
Meanwhile, Twitter and Alphabet also acted on FireEye’s claims and removed hundreds of accounts said to be tied to Iranian “actors,” which are believed to be promoting Tehran’s geopolitical agenda.
Reacting to the move by Facebook, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, Alireza Miryousefi, said, “Such claims are ridiculous and are part and parcel of U.S. public calls for regime change in Iran, and are an abuse of social media platforms.”