Those pushing back against what many say is an agenda for regime change in Iran are reporting an online backlash the likes of which they have not seen before. However, the Twitter accounts doing the trolling may not be the organic opposition voices they are made out to be.
For all the accusations of disinformation and fake news from both sides, it is rare that we can point to facts, a location, and actual personnel explaining the modus operandi of an organized troll factory.
Former MEK members still stranded in the Albanian capital, Tirana, having left the group, described how the MEK uses thousands of fake Twitter accounts to both promote their organisation and to boost online calls for regime change.
“Our orders would tell us the hashtags to use in our tweets in order to make them more active,” says Hassan Shahbaz, former MEK member. “It was our job to provide coverage of these protests by seeking out, tweeting and re-tweeting videos while adding our own comments.”
MEK keyboard warriors would also target journalists, academics and activists who favour dialogue rather than confrontation with Iran.