Small Media Foundation http://www.smallmedia.org.uk Small media news feed Filterwatch // Episode 4 — Net Neutrality Credits Music by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Anupam ChanderEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Isabel Beard http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-4-net-neutrality April 22, 2016, 5:24 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-4-net-neutrality IIIP // March 2016 IntroductionIn the summer of 2014, we reported on a number of Iranian social networks that look suspiciously similar to their Western counterparts. Since then, we have observed a strong tendency among Iranian officials to encourage Iranians to opt for the domestic alternatives. In this month’s report, we zoom out and look at some of the effects of the Iranian government’s efforts to promote domestic platforms and services. We also consider how the concept of net neutrality might be applicable (if at all) in the Iranian context. Does Iran’s prioritisation of domestic platforms constitution a violation of net ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-march-2016 April 13, 2016, 11:09 a.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-march-2016 Filterwatch // Episode 3 — Iran's Cyber Army Music by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle Bowen http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-3-irans-cyber-army March 21, 2016, 4:05 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-3-irans-cyber-army IIIP // February 2016 IntroductionIn this month’s report, we take a look at Iran’s Cyber Army. In particular, we’ll focus on the ways state-sponsored hackers target activists, journalists, and civil society organisations. We’ll start with a quick overview of Iran’s offensive cyber activities, focusing specifically on phishing attacks aimed at information gathering. Then we’ll look at some recent attacks and techniques in a bit more detail. We have interviewed a number of activists who have been targeted, and will draw on the insights provided in these interviews to draw some tentative conclusions about the capacity, motives, and techniques ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-february-2016 March 21, 2016, 1:09 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-february-2016 #IranVotes // Twitter in Iran Over the past couple months, we’ve been working with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the social intelligence firm Graphika to track the election as it plays out on Twitter. Before we discuss some of our findings, we’d like to provide a bit of background information about Twitter in Iran. In this post, we’ll discuss how Twitter has become an important platform for both activists and authorities, and explain why we felt it was essential to take look more closely at the role of Twitter in Iran today.The ‘Twitter Revolution’ of 2009When protests erupted in the streets of Tehran following the disputed Presidential elections of 2009, many Western commentators were quick to celebrate Twitter’s role in the uprising. Former U.S. national security adviser Mark Pfeifle went so far as to suggest that the popular micro-blogging site should get the Nobel Peace Prize because “without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy.” The widespread perception that Twitter was integral to the protests prompted an official at the U.S. state department to ask Twitter to postpone scheduled maintenance in order to keep the platform online for Iranian users. Everyone seemed to agree that Twitter was a crucial enabler of the movement. The celebratory discourse about Twitter revolutions almost definitely overstated Twitter’s role in the uprising. Former Persian editor of Global Voices Hamid Tehrani argued that “the West was focused not on the Iranian people but on the role of western technology. Twitter was important in publicising what was happening, but its role was overemphasized.” But there’s no doubt that the events of 2009 prompted Iranian authorities to take a much greater interest in Twitter. Some of that interest took the shape of censorship; Twitter was first blocked in Iran in 2009. Yet there were also indications that authorities recognised the propaganda value offered by the micro-blogging site.One example cited by Iranian-American journalist Golnaz Esfandiari is the story of Saeedeh Pouraghayi, an Iranian activist allegedly arrested, raped, and murdered for shouting “Allah Akbar” on her rooftop, that spread rapidly on Twitter and other social networks. As it turned out, the story was a hoax. Pouraghayi later appeared on state TV saying that on the night she was ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-twitter-in-iran March 2, 2016, 5:43 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-twitter-in-iran #IranVotes // Mapping Iran's Twittersphere Our #IranVotes series has so far mapped out some of the biggest political dramas of the pre-campaign season, examining the Guardian Council’s mass disqualification of parliamentary and Assembly of Experts candidates, and establishing that voters in the Islamic Republic of Iran have a limited number of options in the upcoming contest.For the rest of February, we’ll be working with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the social intelligence firm Graphika to track the election as it plays out on Twitter. The official campaign period kicked off on Thursday 18 February, so let’s talk a little about our research processes before we get stuck in with our analysis.Our ProcessBack at the start of January, Small Media and Graphika worked together to develop a ‘seed list’ of several hundred Persian-language Twitter accounts, based on Small Media’s knowledge of the Iranian Twittersphere and previous analysis undertaken by Graphika. Graphika took this seed list and used it to develop an initial (and fairly rough) map of Persian-speaking Twitter.Graphika’s mapping process was conducted using a ‘crawling’ (or ‘spidering’) method, whereby a crawler moved out from our seed list to draw fresh users into the map based on follower relationships. Graphika’s artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm subsequently developed clusters of Twitter accounts based on the relationships between users in the network.Graphika developed the first map, which was categorised into 40 clusters and labelled by an AI. Small Media then categorised these 40 clusters into nine thematic groups, which were named based on the dominant content of tweets posted by users in each cluster:For the second round of mapping, we removed the non-Persian speaking clusters (Pakistani, Kurdish, and Afghan users), as our analysis will be limited to Persian language content. We subsequently applied a filter to the map, by which only Twitter accounts with at least one Persian-language tweet will appear. After applying these filters, we regrouped all clusters and built a new map based on the content of tweets in each cluster.The new groups and clusters for the second map are listed below:The second iteration of the Iranian Twittersphere map provided us with more readily identifiable communities, and more overtly political clusters compared with our first map, including groups of hardliners, reformists, and pro-Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) users—a community we’ve previously found to be very prolific on Twitter.Using the Graphika platform, we will be able to drill down into each community to identify the most influential users, the most frequently tweeted posts, the most widely shared media content, and the most linked-to websites in the network. We’ll analyse all this content and provide an overview of the election campaign as it unfolds online.We’re working through the insights now, but we’ve identified a number of key groupings of Twitter users. Check out the maps below to see the shape of the Iranian Twittersphere, and to learn about some of the key clusters we’ve identified.The Iranian TwittersphereAbove is a map of the Iranian Twittersphere in all its technicolour glory. Admittedly, at first glance it may just look as though someone planted 10 tons of TNT underneath a rainbow, but maps like these can tell us a range of interesting things about the connections and intersections between different segments of the Iranian Twittersphere.Nodes in this map are sized based on the number of followers they have within the rest of the network. Their location, and their proximity to other nodes is affected by a number of other factors, ranging from the number of followers an account has, to the intensity and volume of interactions with other users’ content. Let’s take a look at the major user groups we’ve identified, and the clusters within them.PoliticsThe clusters in the ‘Politics’ group are dominated by key political figures in the Iranian establishment, high-profile members of reformist politics, international human rights organisations, and non-Iranian government-affiliated accounts (such as @USAdarfarsi).The smaller red cluster at the bottom of the map consists primarily of accounts affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK are an exiled opposition movement with a very limited following in Iran (after fighting alongside Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq War), and a troubled human rights record.The vast majority of pro-MEK users are on the periphery of the network, and interact only with other MEK users, although high-profile leaders such as @Maryam_Rajavi appear to interact with users in the ‘Human Rights Organisations’ segment on a semi-regular basis, likely reflecting the MEK’s efforts to position itself as an organisation of human rights defenders.The politically-focused users in the wider ‘Politics’ group will serve as one of the key areas of focus for us over the election period. Users in these segments demonstrate high levels of network influence (as demonstrated by the large size of nodes in the middle of the map), and their content could shape the emerging election-related discussions on Iranian Twitter.Reformist Journalists and Diaspora MediaThis group, and the clusters within it constitute the largest politically-focused community in the Iranian Twittersphere. High-influence users at the centre of the map include major diaspora news outlets such as @bbcpersian and @ManotoTV , and affiliated journalists such as @BahmanKalbasi, alongside Iran-based reformist newspapers such as @SharghDaily and journalists like @SadraMohaqeq .Given the relatively large size of this network, and the considerable influence of many users within it, we expect that this segment will prove to be very active over the course of the campaign, and will likely create some of the most widely-shared written and media content.Conservative JournalistsThe network of conservative journalists and associated users is the smallest within our network, making up just 3% of the accounts in our map. The most influential users in this network include blogger and Farda News journalist @meftah, and Head of the Institute of Islamic World Affairs @masrouriamir.On the evidence of this map, it appears as though conservative commentators have a somewhat limited presence in the Iranian Twittersphere. When analysing activity over the election campaign, we’ll be paying close attention to see whether there’s much political activity from this segment.Unmasking the Arzeshi—Small Media’s 2013 report on conservative online activism—suggested that Iran’s conservatives rarely took to Twitter, and that their content output on the platform was rather minimal. This month, we’ll find out whether or not this still stands.TechnologyThe Iranian tech community has taken to Twitter very enthusiastically. This segment of the map is most heavily influenced by the tech blogger @VahidOnline and the host of BBC Persian’s tech show ‘Click’, @NimaAkbarpour.Also influential within this segment of the network are startup-focused organisations working in Iran, including Avatech Accelerator and Iran Startups, along with successful digital entrepreneurs and tech leaders like @AsmaKaroobi.Over the course of our study, we’re particularly interested in seeing how Iran’s tech sector engages with political discussions taking place during the election campaign. Are Iran’s tech leaders engaging with the political sphere? Or are they more focused on transforming the country though a technological revolution?Cultural and Mixed Users<img class="progressiveMedia-noscript js-progressiveMedia-inner" src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/0*6R0Ayo8B3RtLcaYT."&amp ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-mapping-irans-twittersphere Feb. 23, 2016, 4:43 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-mapping-irans-twittersphere Filterwatch // Episode Two CreditsMusic by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Amin SabetiEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Isabel Beard http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-two Feb. 19, 2016, 1:11 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-two IIIP // January 2016 Iranian Internet Infrastructure and Policy ReportJanuary 2016IntroductionIn this month’s report, we take a look the recently announced ICT budget for (2016/17). We’ll break down the government’s spending priorities, and discuss what the figures might suggest about Rouhani’s commitment to cybersecurity, Iranian startups, and the national internet. Holes in the budget also point to massive inefficiencies, and possibly some level of corruption in the ICT Ministry. We also tracked the big developments in internet infrastructure and policy development throughout January, including a growing number of international partnerships in the wake of the lifting of sanctions, and ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-january-2016 Feb. 18, 2016, 4:10 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-january-2016 #IranVotes // Experts, Assemble! Later this month, Iranians will vote in the first elections since the 2013 presidential elections that swept Hassan Rouhani into office. In our previous blog post we showed how the parliamentary elections on February 26 are pretty much fixed in favour of Iran’s conservative establishment, with thousands of candidates being locked out of the race by Iran’s Guardian Council.But parliamentary elections aren’t the only ones taking place on February 26. Iranians will also get the chance to vote in elections for the Assembly of Experts—a senior body of clerics responsible for choosing Iran’s next ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-experts-assemble Feb. 10, 2016, 2:15 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-experts-assemble Filterwatch // Episode One CreditsMusic by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Amin SabetiEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Isabel Beard http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-one Feb. 8, 2016, 12:53 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/filterwatch-episode-one Launch Event // Economic Participation and Human Rights in Iran On 21 January 2016 we launched two major reports on human rights and digital activism in Iran in Washington D.C., in partnership with IREX.National Fabric: Iran’s Ethnic Minorities tells the story of Iran's ethnic minority digital activists as they work to preserve the languages and cultures that have until now been excluded excluded from Iran's rich cultural tapestry.Small Media's Research Manager James Marchant presented the major findings of the report, and described a number of innovative digital campaigns created by Iran's marginalised ethnic minority communities, including Kurdish e-publishing platforms, Azeri Instagram-based language ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/launch-event-economic-participation-and-human-righ Feb. 5, 2016, 4:59 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/launch-event-economic-participation-and-human-righ #IranVotes // An Introduction On February 26, citizens in the Islamic Republic of Iran will have the opportunity to cast a vote for the first time since the 2013 presidential elections that swept Hassan Rouhani into office.Since then, the Rouhani administration has been locked in a seemingly never-ending battle with the most hardline elements of the political establishment over issues ranging from foreign policy, through to cultural censorship and information controls.Some of the noisiest criticisms of the Rouhani administration in the last few years have come from Iran’s Parliament. The last parliamentary elections in 2012 were notable for a large-scale reformist ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-an-introduction Feb. 4, 2016, 12:56 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iranvotes-an-introduction Introducing Filterwatch Credits Music by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle Bowen Senior Research Advisor: Amin SabetiEditorial Advisor: James Marchant Design: Richard Kahwagi and Isabel Beard http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/introducing-filterwatch Feb. 3, 2016, 12:41 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/introducing-filterwatch IIIP // December 2015 Iranian Internet Infrastructure and Policy ReportDecember 2015IntroductionWhile the Iranian new year is still a couple months away, here in London we’re already two weeks into 2016. We thought this was a good time to think about what the new year might bring for Iranian internet users. Below we’ve made a number of predictions about what Iranian internet and censorship policy will look like in 2016.The Iranian Internet in 2016: What’s next?In the first section, we revisit three of the predictions we made in our February 2015 Rouhani Review report. We’ll evaluate each prediction and ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-december-2015 Jan. 26, 2016, 10:57 a.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-december-2015 IIIP // November 2015 Introduction This month’s feature takes another look at the meteoric rise of messaging apps in Iran, and particularly at the runaway success of Telegram. While hardliners continue to rant and rave about its uses as a vehicle for ‘immoral’ content and pornography, more moderate members of the Iranian political and media establishments appear to be looking increasingly to Telegram as a vehicle for getting state-approved content to its massive user base. We explore these tensions in more depth below. Also this month, we can share the latest updates about the development of the National Internet, hear about the announcement ... http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-november-2015 Dec. 17, 2015, 12:08 p.m. http://www.smallmedia.org.uk/news/iiip-november-2015