Cross-eyed in Teheran: Iranians say Twitter ban stops them from countering Saudi hashtag assault

by WorldTribune Staff, July 27, 2016

Flustered by an onslaught of Iran bashing on Twitter by Saudis, Iranians are demanding the ban on the social media giant in the Islamic republic be lifted so they can launch a hashtag blitz of their own.

“Saudi’s media war against Iran on Twitter has peaked such that Iran, where this site is blocked, has a relatively weak presence, and has not given a firm response to this psychological operation,” a recent article on the Tabnak news site said.

Saudi Arabia has 9 million active Twitter users. /AFP/Getty Images
Saudi Arabia has 9 million active Twitter users. /AFP/Getty Images

Some Twitter users in Iran managed to respond to the Saudi hashtags, but their numbers were too small and their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

There are estimated to be over 1 million active Twitter users in Iran (those that use it at least once a month), while Saudi Arabia has nearly 9 million active users.

“The issue of Iran’s weakness and the small number of Iranians on Twitter and the activity of anti-Iranian forces, especially Saudis on Twitter, in recent days has made the news and has made the topic of removing the block on this media important once again,” wrote Pooria Asteraky in the Hamshahri newspaper on July 25.

Asteraky wrote that, since Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen began in 2015, Twitter accounts belonging to Saudis launched organized campaigns to disseminate anti-Iranian hashtags. The Saudi social media assault “became so common that small protests in Iran or even a fire in a petrochemical plant were being celebrated by Saudis and given their own Arabic hashtag,” the July 25 report said.

The Tabnak article reported that Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in recent months in social media campaigns against Iran, and warned that Iran should become active and urged the authorities to review and reconsider the block on Twitter, which it called “an effective media and an extremely strong loudspeaker at the international level.”

In recent years, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani joined Twitter.

One of Iran government’s main concerns about lifting the ban is that the servers for its social media sites are overseas.