Iran’s election campaign dominated by social media

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With the Iranian presidential election only days away, the campaigns of both Rouhani and hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, have launched a social media free-for-all unprecedented in Iranian political history. By far the most popular social media outlet is Telegram, a chat service that is a niche player in most Western countries but has some 20 million users in Iran, according to a report by the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). “Lack of trust in these organizations [state television] has led to a situation where the youth and the educated try to get news via social media such as Telegram, or Whatsapp and Viber or other available social media services”, Iranian Mostafa Koshki said. In Tehran, shopkeeper Mehdi Shahriyari said he believed that social media provided more accurate information than state television and that was why Iranians were turning to more modern forms of news collection. “In my opinion, social media provides us with more accurate and reliable information”, Shahriyari said. “The range of information available on social media is wider, therefore its better, and it does not support any special person [candidate]. Everyone is supporting their own candidate”. Telegram allows users to set up “channels” to broadcast pictures, videos and other messages to a wide following. For Iranian reformers in particular, that offers a way to get out messages that otherwise would be thwarted by censorship. Iran has a young, tech-savvy population: approximately 60 percent of the population of 80 million is under 30.

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