This project, 1) explores the networks, processes and mechanisms of production and usage of false information (e.g. fake news, misinformation) on Iranian Twittersphere (Persian Twitter), and 2) investigates the ways in which the Iranian state employs false information to dismantle Twitter narratives and underpin its hegemonic discourse. Despite the importance of Twitter in Iran, we do not yet know much about the production and dissemination of false information on Persian Twitter. Furthermore, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the ways that the state uses false information for deterring Twitter narratives. Based on Hannah Arendt’s philosophical thoughts on speech and storytelling, this study addresses these gaps by investigating Persian Twitter in two recent big events in Iran: Nationwide protests in November 2019, and shooting the Ukrainian passenger flight in January 2020 by Iranian military forces. Having collected two tweet corpora during these cases, I will use a variety of methods (specifically a combination of social network analysis, ethnographic content analysis, and social media critical discourse study) to achieve a distant and close reading of tweets. In this phase, I will investigate users’ generic storytelling practices, state’s intervening strategies by disseminating false information, and finally, the nodal points where users and the state struggle to make their narratives hegemonic.
This project contributes to the studies of social media in repressing citizens by focusing on the role of dissemination of false information. It also enhances our understanding of Twitter communication during sociopolitical happenings in a semi-authoritarian, and relatively understudied context: Iran.
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