The general commanding Iran’s terrorist designated paramilitary Basij, said Thursday that his social media activists would be given equipment and technical support to boost their work and ramp up their disinformation online campaign.
Organized trolling has been for some time a feature of Iranian politics, helping to spread untruths and unsubstantiated allegations. Iranian authorities, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei refer to state-sponsored social-media activists as “cadets of the soft war.”
Iranian activists often allege that the IRGC and other state bodies sponsor organized trolls on social media to anonymously threaten, attack and discredit dissidents and to disseminate fake news.
The Basij, a wing of Iran’s terrorist designated Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has around 5 million members, according to leading academic authority Saeed Golkar, with around 200,000 cadres and special Basij, who can act as a paramilitary support to police and security forces. Thousands of members are active on social media to counter news, information and critical opinions disseminated on social-media including by Persian-speaking media abroad.
Besides maintaining extensive network of social media activists to spread disinformation, the Islamic Republic also devotes an unknown measure of resources to control the Internet, block thousands of websites and ban foreign social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Almost every Iranian has to resort to VPNs and other tools to have access to blocked sites.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has 2,500 websites and is trying to organize “cyber battalions in Basij militia bases”.
The IRGC cyber headquarters began its operation 10 years ago and expanded it after the 2009 presidential election and the widespread street protests that followed it. Yadollah Javani, the head of the political bureau of the IRGC, has been quoted as saying that they have organized the fifth-largest cyber army in the world.
The IRGC cyber headquarters is highly active in the identification and arrest of internet users expressing themselves in the cyber world. In recent years there have been several reports of individuals being arrested by IRGC officers for their activities on the internet.