Small Media Foundation Small media news feed IIIP // July 2016 IntroductionIn the wake of the lifting of international sanctions on Iran, all eyes have turned to President Hassan Rouhani’s government to see if the President can deliver on his promises of rejuvenating the Iranian economy, stamping out corruption, and ushering in a new era of prosperity for Iran’s citizens. Against the backdrop of the continued economic influence of the Revolutionary Guard, and growing public anger at cronyism and financial corruption across the political spectrum, there is an urgent need to provide access to accurate, transparent public data relating to the country’s development.In this month’s report ... Aug. 26, 2016, 5:24 p.m. IIIP // June 2016 More than three years on from the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani to the presidency, Iranian citizens are still waiting on a thaw in the country’s internet control policies. Particularly high on the agenda in the wake of his election was the idea that restrictions should be lifted on social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But now, with a fresh presidential election on the horizon, there are murmurings that some hardliners are warming to the idea of opening up social media to the masses. Why the shift in tone? We look back at some of our previous research ... July 27, 2016, 10:33 a.m. Filterwatch // Special Edition — Live from Citizen Lab Special edition! This month, we take a break from Iranian internet policy to bring you a live report from the Citizen Lab Summer Institute in Toronto. We caught up with Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert, and asked him about the history of the Citizen Lab, his thoughts on censorship, and some of the challenges he faces in his work. Check out the interview below.Producer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Ron DeibertEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Richard KahwagiMusic by Longzijun July 18, 2016, 12:01 p.m. #IranVotes // Twitter and the 2016 Elections Iran's elections in February saw voters decisively sweep away one of the most conservative parliaments in the Islamic Republic's history, and deliver a fresh legislature far friendlier to President Rouhani's political agenda. But how was this victory won?On 22 June, Small Media launched a new report in partnership with the Internet Monitor project — #IranVotes: Political Discourse on Iranian Twitter During the 2016 Parliamentary Elections. The report, coauthored by James Marchant, Amin Sabeti, Kyle Bowen, John Kelly, and Rebekah Heacock Jones, delves deep into Iran's Twittersphere, engaging in network analysis and content analysis to test claims ... June 22, 2016, 4:23 p.m. Filterwatch // Episode 6 — Tech Sanctions Producer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Rishab NithyanandEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Richard KahwagiMusic by Longzijun June 22, 2016, 11:19 a.m. IIIP // May 2016 IntroductionSince the 1979 Revolution, the US has imposed a variety of punitive sanctions on Iran. However, the economic pressure on the Islamic Republic increased significantly during Ahmadinejad's tenure, due to more wide-ranging UN sanctions being imposed in 2006, followed by several rounds of what have been termed “increasingly comprehensive” EU sanctions from 2010. While the recent nuclear agreement removed many of these sanctions, foreign banks and other companies have been reluctant to enter the Iranian market due to lingering fears of running afoul of the US sanctions against Iran that remain in place. In this month’s report, we ... June 15, 2016, 4:20 p.m. Filterwatch // Episode 5 — Measuring Internet Censorship Producer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Abbas RazaghpanahEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Richard KahwagiMusic by Longzijun May 25, 2016, 3:58 p.m. IIIP // April 2016 Iranian Internet Infrastructure and Policy ReportApril 2016IntroductionIn our monthly reports, we often discuss news reports or rumours of internet filtering. This month, we’re putting some of those hypotheses to the test. With help from computer science researchers at Information Controls Lab (ICLab) we designed an experiment to test whether or not a series of websites were blocked, and if so, by which censorship methods. Before delving into the specifics of the research, here is a bit of background information about ICLab. ICLab is a research project that aims to provide reliable information controls and censorship measurement data at scale ... May 23, 2016, 3:17 p.m. Filterwatch // Episode 4 — Net Neutrality Credits Music by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Anupam ChanderEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Isabel Beard April 22, 2016, 5:24 p.m. 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 ... April 13, 2016, 11:09 a.m. Filterwatch // Episode 3 — Iran's Cyber Army Music by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle Bowen March 21, 2016, 4:05 p.m. 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 ... March 21, 2016, 1:09 p.m. #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 ... March 2, 2016, 5:43 p.m. #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="*6R0Ayo8B3RtLcaYT."&amp ... Feb. 23, 2016, 4:43 p.m. Filterwatch // Episode 2 — ICT Budget 2016/17 CreditsMusic by LongzijunProducer: Mo HoseiniHost: Kyle BowenGuest: Amin SabetiEditorial Advisor: James MarchantDesign: Isabel Beard Feb. 19, 2016, 1:11 p.m.