Iranian Regime Used Twitter to Demonize the MEK
In September, Twitter deleted 770 accounts linked to the Iranian regime after discovering that they were used to spread propaganda and misinformation. Facebook, Google, and Instagram had also removed Iranian-regime accounts from their platforms in the around the same time.
On October 17th, Twitter released the content of the deleted accounts. A total of 1,122,936 tweets, along with embedded photos and videos, were released to the public. Although most of the tweets were aimed at influencing the outcome of the 2016 election, a disturbing number of the messages were directed at the MEK and the Iranian Resistance. The newly-released tweets confirm the MEK’s long-held assertion that the Iranian regime considers the MEK to be an existential threat and sees the destruction of the resistance organization as the only way to maintain its claim to power.
In early 2018, the Iranian regime stepped up their Twitter campaign in response to the people’s uprising, which had begun the month before. The misinformation campaign, along with simultaneous acts of suppression inside of Iran set the stage for acts of terrorism against the MEK and the Iranian Resistance abroad.
The majority of the tweets regarding the MEK are in Persian. Other tweets are in English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Albanian, and Pashto, in descending order of prevalence. The tweets first appeared in 2012 and multiplied until 2018, when the accounts were detected and shut down. The accounts published more tweets in 2018 than in all six previous years combined.
The released tweets are an example of the ways in which the regime uses the media and “friendly correspondents” to create a false narrative. The WashingtonPost summed up the regime’s strategy with this headline from October 17th: “Iranians masqueraded as foreign journalists to push political messages online, new Twitter data shows.”
In a television interview on July 9, 2017, Former Iranian regime Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian acknowledged that the Ministry of Intelligence uses this tactic. “In order to gather intelligence,” he said, “the Ministry of Intelligence needs a cover, whether inside or outside the country. We do not send an intelligence officer to Germany or the United States to say, ‘Hey, I am from the Ministry of Intelligence.’ [Rather,] a business or journalism cover is needed.”
— Shahin Gobadi (@gobadi) July 21, 2017
Along these lines, one of the published tweets reads:
- NBC On Assignment with #RichardEngel commissioned these exclusive drone shots of the #MKO’s secret new base near Tirana in Albania. The #MEK are a shadowy group with a terrorist past they killed Americans in Iran in the 1970s and then fought alongside Saddam Hussein. Widely hated. https://t.co/F019t3iuvh
According to the recent disclosure, the regime set up multiple accounts and created at least 70 hashtags related to the Resistance. Prior to the annual gathering of the Iranian Resistance in June, the regime created the hashtags #BanTerrorOrg, #BanMEK, #IranHatesMEK, and #No2MEK. The regime claimed in many cases that the hashtags were created by people who hated both the regime and the resistance movement. This is a well-known tactic by the regime’s intelligence meant to confuse outsiders looking for information. The MEK has called agents of the regime out for these ploys many times, but the most common response is that MEK members claim that anyone who opposes them must be an intelligence agent but provide no proof. Now there is an abundance of proof.
The regime focused a great deal of attention on Ashraf 3, the MEK camp in Albania. These are some of the tweets that were disclosed that concern MEK members in Albania:
- Senior US Senators meet Iranian terror group leader in Albania https://t.co/eID2iLGZ3b #realiran https://t.co/lBWuvkd4Wz
- #MEK terrorist camp in #Albania poses grave risk to Albania, the #Balkans and the #MiddleEast’ https://t.co/0mmMAgYtT8 https://t.co/X2NJx7a9do
- RT @noiranwarorg: An Eye-opener: Camp Ashraf three, relocated from Iraq to Albania: “Trump, along with Israel, has a clear plan and this i…
- Forget #politics, investigate #MEK #humanrights abuses in #Albania https://t.co/ta70Ax82Wo #Iran #JohnBolton #Tirana
- A speech last week by Trump’s legal advisor Rudy Giuliani in #Washington demonstrates fully that he, John Bolton, John McCain and the Trump administration hawks are able, without reservation, to exploit #Albania as a failed nation state. https://t.co/5YKNBkCnIu
- The #MEK is a terrorist group. #Albania cannot host a terrorist group without consequences. This is not #Afghanistan or #Iraq or #Syria in which groups hide in the chaos and violence. This is a peaceful, democratic country which wishes to join the #EU. https://t.co/5YKNBkCnIu
A number of tweets that are known to have originated from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Intelligence Ministry either link to an Intelligence Ministry-affiliated site known as Iran-Interlink or quote intelligence agent Massoud Khodabandeh or his wife, Anne Singleton. These known agents of the Iranian regime were formerly instructed to focus on Camps Ashraf and Liberty and have now been asked to refocus on the presence of the MEK in Albania. The troll accounts retweet the agents and amplify their message, which is a common tactic.
Based on this document&many others Khodabandeh &Singleton are agents of #Iran's criminal Intelligence Min(MOIS). The @Channel4News crew appeared harassing #MEK(Iran's main opposition) filming them without permission& the photos appear on MOIS website.What does that tell you? pic.twitter.com/XjcVI3Hlk6
— Ka Veh (@kaveh20092009) August 26, 2018
The following are some of the disclosed tweets which follow this pattern:
- RT @IranInterlink: Massoud Khodabndeh: The mysterious disappearance of a member of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) terrorist group in Albania has…
- RT @ma_khodabandeh: Albanian media fooled by MEK ‘misdirection’ https://t.co/tScZMXWOAJ
- RT @AnneKhodabandeh: Trump Administration exploits Albania as a failed state, Rama is silent https://t.co/MzbZc7KQet
- #Albanian PM offends the #Jews by comparing their suffering to #terrorists ( #MEK) https://t.co/G6OvAVT88k by @AnneKhodabandeh @ma_khodabandeh https://t.co/wqD2hPf9rq
- RT @ma_khodabandeh: My latest in Bakanspost. Albania: MEK rebrands by assassinating unwanted members https://t.co/73WdjnGbSU
- #IranFreedom? #Iran_Maryam? Mojahedin Khalq thugs beat-up Mostafa Mohammadi and his daughter (Photos) http://t.co/rHQOBgUBlc
Other tweets targeted the MEK’s presence in France or condemned the Iranian Resistance’s annual gathering in Paris:
- We condemn that French government is hosting MKO #NoToMKO #TrumpSupportsTerrorism #GiulianiSupportsTerrorism #BanTerrorOrg https://t.co/ZFwc4vbJVd
- Mr president @EmmanuelMacron the so-called #MEK group which has carried out numerous #terrorist activities in Iran, which has acted as mercenaries of Saddam Hussein and killed thousands of Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Kurd is living freely in your country expel them please #BanTerrorOrg https://t.co/PTcGpQXAwk
- Just imagine what would happen if Iran hosted an #ISIS gathering (the murderer of more than 700 French citizens from 2015)? Now #France is hosting a gathering of #MEK terrorist organization (responsible for the murder of 15,000 Iranians) in Paris! #BanTerrorOrg https://t.co/mi2PfOa5W9
- Paris is hosting a gathering of #MEK terrorist organization (responsible for the murder of 15,000 People) This is like how France supported #ISIS in Syria. https://t.co/AE04kFO7oK
- Why are France, the US, and some other countries like Saudi Arabia are supporting MEK terror group? Do you know MEK? “Since 1981 the [MEK] has claimed responsibility for murdering thousands of Iranians,” the report said. Among victims, there are many kids and women #TuesdayThoughts https://t.co/WyYGEdIxZW
- France’s safety is the main victim of MKO’s traffic https://t.co/P9dAPc2bCJ
According to a regime parliamentarian, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif traveled to France in a failed attempt to cancel the Iranian Resistance gathering. When he was unable to do so, the regime tweeted this message, claiming to be from the MEK:
- MKO announcement: annual “resistance” conference in Paris canceled for security concerns https://t.co/iLm8vqJzjD
It does not appear that anyone was fooled by the message.
Some tweets showed the regime’s furor over American support for the Iranian Resistance:
- RT @Zolfegar12: @Mojahedineng @nikkihaley Shame upon shame @nikkihaley ambassador of #America obviously retweeted from mek/mko terrorist ac…
- RT @tparsi (Trita Parsi): With Bolton in the White House, the MEK terrorists are one step closer in doing to Iran what Bolton did to Iraq. Make no mistake…
- When Rudi Giuliani support a Terrorist Group Americans have a more negative view of former New York City Mayor today https://t.co/5h3kTju2W2 #NoToMKO #Trump #TrumpSupportsTerrorism #NoToMEK #GiulianiSupportsTerrorism https://t.co/S9WbzSJjMg
- Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and informal adviser Newt Gingrich are listed as headliners for the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq conference in Paris.For 15 years,the U.S. designated the MEK a terrorist group #NoToMKO #Trump #TrumpSupportsTerrorism #NoToMEK #GiulianiSupportsTerrorism https://t.co/ODqSd3uz67
- Stop supporting terrotist group dumpy #NoToMKO #GiulianiSupportsTerrorism #TrumpSupportsTerrorism #BanTerrorOrg https://t.co/Ld8Qnhtit0
- @N0_H8_EVER You’re right! Maryam Rajavi is their leader. They are officially from the MEK. These guys were officially trained by USA gov…They have the blood of thousands of Iranians on their hands. They’re an old Marxist cult, renounced Marxism only recently to receive USA aid a few yrs ago.
The regime’s hostility toward Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, and Massoud Rajavi, leader of the Iranian Resistance, is clear in the disclosed tweets. The vulgarity and crudeness masks a deep fear though. The regime spent a great deal of time, effort, and hate demonizing not only the MEK but Mrs. Rajavi specifically. These are not the actions of confident, competent leaders. These are frightened children lashing out.
- RT @YJC_ir: What makes #Rajavi and #ISIS brothers? https://t.co/b5AVIyWbLi #No2mko #RajaviCrimes https://t.co/G8ZysjkP0m
- RT @YJC_ir: Maryam #Rajavi openly supported #ISIS from French parliament https://t.co/pxv0oeSTrn #No2mko #RajaviCrimes https://t.co/hNGcK8W…
- Iranian youth, young men whose roots and civilization go back to Cyrus the Great (good speech, good thought, good behavior), not Maryam Rajavi, who has ugly speech, wrong thought and terrorist behavior.
- Why did the Saudis promote #IStandwithMaryamRajavi? They gave her money. They don’t want their investment to fail.
- The #MEK is NOT a simple opposition group. It’s a terror organization. More than 16,000 Iranians have been killed by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran since 1979! Read again: 16,000 people!including 1 President&1 Prime Minister #BanTerrorOrg #FreeIran2018 #IStandWithMaryamRajavi https://t.co/uPkftShOxw
As the officials of Twitter stated on October 17, 2018, “It is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease.”
The mullahs will attempt to deceive until the day they are overthrown. Let that day be soon.