Mar 28, 2024, 2:39 PM
Journalist ID: 5486
News ID: 85429549
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Prominent analyst calls Meta ban on Iran Leader page part of US hybrid war

Tehran, IRNA – Political commentator Tim Anderson says the suppression of Iran’s voice and the voices of those allied to or supported by Iran should best be seen as a key element of US hybrid warfare.

In an exclusive interview with IRNA, Anderson, the Director of the Center for Counter Hegemonic Studies, argued that in the United States, social media censorship of Iran is driven by a bipartisan obsession with Iran as the key strategic opponent in Washington’s ‘New Middle East’ project.

The following is the full transcript of the interview:

As you are aware, Meta had shut down all accounts and pages of the Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Why do you think Meta felt the need to do so against its claims of freedom of speech?

There is a steadily growing North American and European tradition of politically censoring social media, especially now that the majority of Western young people get their news from social media rather than from state and corporate media agencies, which have long been deeply integrated into state policy on strategically important matters, such as war and corporate privilege.

It remains a cause of alarm, for example, to Zionist lobbies, that even quite heavily censored social media has alienated most North American youth from the Israelis, during the most recent bout of genocidal violence in Gaza. That has led to calls to close or purchase Tiktok. However, even Western corporate media recognizes that youth alienation from the monstrous Israelis has much wider causes.

In the USA, social media censorship of Iran is driven by a bipartisan obsession with Iran as the key strategic opponent in Washington’s ‘New Middle East’ project, the aim to dominate the region, centered around Israeli and Saudi proxies. That project has involved six of seven hybrid wars, all of which make great use of propaganda, to disguise their essentially imperial and illegal character. Not only does the Islamic Republic of Iran materially support the Palestinian Resistance and all the other independent peoples and states in the region, but it also has the strongest regional voice and media.

So, suppression of Iran’s voice and the voices of those allied to or supported by Iran should best be seen as a key element of US hybrid warfare, making use of the Pentagon doctrines of “destroying disconnectedness” and “full spectrum dominance”.

Social media control has been practiced by both sides of the US bipolar system, with the Trump administration moving on it in 2019 and tightening censorship of Meta/Facebook after the murders of Soleimani and Muhandis in January 2020. Because some sections of the North American social media were liberal-controlled, there was a backlash on Trump which led to his own Twitter account being frozen in 2021. Nevertheless, it was under Trump that Facebook began to censor or close many accounts, including this writer’s account, who made sympathetic posts on Soleimani, including images from his funeral. Despite some dissent, Facebook began to remove pro-Soleimani posts in January 2020, saying that US law (which had some unilateral ‘sanctions’ against the Iranian national hero) required them to do so. Instagram, also part of the Meta stable, followed suit. Curiously, this censorship was not notable when Soleimani was alive and even praised by parts of the Western media, for his role in defeating ISIS terrorism. Facebook stated that they had to act against praise or sympathy for Soleimani because, even in death, he was a “dangerous individual”.

If this danger is to the US project to dominate West Asia, I guess they were right. Soleimani’s ghost does hang over all US-occupied parts of the region.

In the wake of the murder of Soleimani, US cyber security sources have attempted to put a gloss on the censorship of Iranian sources, linking it to vigilance against supposed Iranian cyberattacks, though it is not clear how censorship helps such vigilance.

Systematic social media censorship, initiated by Trump, was carried on under the Biden administration. In 2021, federal US authorities began to seize and close dozens of websites they believed were supported by Iran, both those in Iran and in other countries. For example, the popular news site was closed and had to reopen as It was not clear at that time that Washington had the authority or power to seize or close any dot com websites. The FBI even closed the Canadian-based American Herald Tribune, which was said to have Iranian links and had switched from a dot COM to a dot CA.

Now censorship under the Biden administration has become an internal issue, with the conservative side of US politics complaining censorship is being used against them.

In the context of this recent history, it is not surprising that Meta (mainly Facebook and Instagram) has moved to censor more Iranian sites, including those belonging to the Iranian leader. It is a type of piracy we have come to expect of a regime that sees itself at war with half the world. For now, that does not apply to the Elon Musk-controlled Twitter or ‘X’ which, so far, has less censorial intervention than the Meta companies.

As an academic who has lived in a Western culture and society, do you think there is real freedom of speech in Western media and society?

There has never been any absolute freedom of speech in Western society. That is just a liberal slogan most often used to defend the freedoms of privileged groups.

Let me remind you that I am an academic removed from his position at the University of Sydney in 2018 for making public comments deemed ‘offensive’ to Israelis, who happen to be major funders of that university. A court case – centered around the principle of ‘intellectual freedom’ at universities – is still underway to determine compensation and my reinstatement. There are literally hundreds of such actions – repression of anti-Zionist voices – in the Anglo-American world.

More generally, there is a relative ‘freedom of speech’ in my society, so long as it is within bounds that do not contradict or threaten powerful interests in our society. Of course, there are some other defined limits, such as threatening speech and defamation, but political speech is mainly constrained by those who control the means of dissemination. Up until recently, that has meant state and corporate media monopolies, through television, radio and newspapers, controlled public debate. More recently, social media has opened the door to far wider participation in debate, and that is why we see concerted efforts by Western regimes to control social media. Elon Musk’s Twitter/X, with less censorship imposed by the Meta companies, faces fewer problems in the USA, because his views are more closely aligned with the conservative side of US politics. However, the liberal factions in Europe are trying to limit the reach of Twitter/X in Europe, under various pretexts.

Internet and social media gave so many people the hope that finally there will be open access to the news and no one would be able to engineer the data that reaches the users, following the recent Meta move, do you think this hope still stands?

I think social media still carries that hope, but we should recognize that North American social media (Meta/Facebook/Instagram, Youtube/Google and Twitter) is embedded in the cultural, legal and political systems of North America. To that extent, those of us outside North America enjoy some temporary and fragile freedoms. The Chinese TikTok group, already quite censored, is facing a battle to survive in North America. The Russian VK is growing in Europe and so has some promise. The other Chinese channels (Weibo, WeChat) are limited to outsiders because they mainly use Chinese characters.

Following the ban on Tik Tok in the US and strict measures of X and Meta against the pro-Palestine and anti-Israeli content do you think that the West will be able to control the public opinion of their societies?

The imperial and Zionist control of social media is weakening, as can be seen by the panic in the USA over the big generation gap in views over the Israeli colony in Palestine. It is not clear that the scramble to assert control by censorship and by banning Iranian, Russian, Cuban, Venezuelan and other accounts will change matters. The genocide in Gaza could not be hidden despite their best efforts. They cannot hide the crimes, so the main focus has become banning resistance views. Yet so far, resistance views are still tolerated on Twitter and VK, if not on Facebook and Instagram.

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