By Hiba Morad
Google executives have referred to the internet and its applications as “the world’s largest ungoverned space.” Let us keep in mind that an ungoverned space can allow for lying without limits. And the most dangerous here is that this “space” can be exploited by many to meet their ends.
Many people inside and outside Iran have sunk into the process of reading and hearing false “facts”—misinformation—or deliberately creating misleading information to cause harm—disinformation.
Many go beyond reading and hearing and start to circulate the news, which is part of human nature. Of course, some might not realize that they are contributing to the dissemination of false information. Others, however, have goals and motivations.
Surfing Western media outlets and Western and Saudi-backed news platforms, one could clearly see that the lies about Iran, its revolution, and its people, as well as the events taking place inside the country’s territory are uncountable.
Twitter is also a platform jamming with Iranians, who usually describe the firebrand youth in Persian as “Javgeer,” meaning that they are carried away by superficial emotions. Many of my Iranian friends have described those young people as such multiple times, especially when talking about events where they might go overboard.
Of course, this does not mean all people get carried away. Some just do it without realizing they are circulating false news. According to experts, falsehoods spread like wildfire on social media, getting quicker and longer-lasting pickup than the truth.
As mentioned above, there is no doubt that others spread disinformation on purpose, trying to commandeer mindsets by the order or orchestration of NGOs and the like, as Masih Alinejad herself confessed in one of her interviews.
And when it comes to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the credibility of the source and online activists they quote in Western and Saudi-funded media does not matter as long as their remarks sabotage the image of Iran. The crime: choosing to be different.
Iran and its officials have time and again said that peaceful protests are welcome, and that the basic and legitimate rights of the people will be met as much as possible, but they have also warned against causing instability or damage to the country. No one would object to people protesting peacefully or expressing their views in a civilized manner. In fact, there have been many examples where Iranians sounded their strong protests or objections even at meetings with politicians and, to the surprise of many people in the West, they were neither put behind the bars nor killed or abused.
Saudi-backed Iran International website was the first to report on a story, saying that “Iranian plainclothes forces raided a girls’ high school in Ardabil, northwest of Iran, on Thursday, injuring 10 students and arresting seven others. One schoolgirl has died of internal bleeding,” it said, claiming it got the information from the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association.
#BREAKING Iranian plainclothes forces raided a girls' high school in Ardabil, northwest of Iran, on Thursday, injuring 10 students and arresting seven others. One schoolgirl has died of internal bleeding, according to the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association.— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) October 14, 2022
Masih Alinejad seemed to be the first person to spread it on Twitter, where she wrote in Persian “The forces kept hitting a female student until she suffered internal bleeding and was killed,” calling for major riots against what she claimed to be “another heinous crime.”
Soon, just like wildfire, the news started to spread. For instance, a Twitter user said: “Iranian Teachers Syndicate reported that IRGC plainclothes men invaded Shaahed high school in Ardabil and wounded seven students, and killed one innocent teenager (due to internal bleeding)!” he called on the people to “be the voice of innocent children” and tagged a few Western officials including Emily Schrader, an Israeli writer and activist, Member of the European Parliament and Vice Chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group Charlie Weimers, and President of the Norwegian Parliament Masud Gharahkhani. Of course, the list goes on.
Now, this is the interesting part: A member of the medical team at the hospital in which sources claim the student died has denied such allegations.
“As a medical staff member of Fatemi Ardabil Hospital, I was permanently present at this hospital from Thursday to Friday, and during this period, contrary to the statements of Iran International, there were no cases of students being killed or injured,” she said on her Twitter account, adding that the Saudi-funded outlet is trying to cause sedition inside Iran.
Of course, her testimony was not picked up as quickly as the contradictory news. And it would be no surprise to see Iran International or else claim later that “oh, correction! It was not Thursday it was Wednesday” if more testimonies surface, or just move to creating or exploiting another story such as that of Mahsa Amini or Nika Shaarami or others.
Of course, the news started to develop gradually. One student became 10 students, and it would not be surprising if we come across Twitter accounts claiming the student was also raped!
For instance, a user wrote: “In the brutal attack of private clothes on Shahid Ardabil High School, ten students were transferred to Fatemi Hospital, one student died due to internal bleeding and seven students were arrested with the cooperation of the school principal.”
This wildfire of lies is like a game of Chinese whispers, with some hearing incorrectly and others adding their own salt and pepper to the words. This story of the Ardabil student is only one example of the tremendous lies told online about Iran, at the time the world sets a blind eye to real crimes committed elsewhere across the world.
Hiba Morad is a Tehran-based academic and political analyst, currently pursuing a PhD in linguistics at the University of Tehran.
(The views expressed in this article are author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)