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Unmask the arzeshi

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Un rapporto di Small Media sulla blogosfera conservatrice in Iran

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Unmask the arzeshi

  1. 1. presented by: UNMASKING T H E A R ZES H I Iran’s Conservative Cyber-Activists and the 2013 Presidential Election
  2. 2. From December 2012 to August 2013, Small Media was busy following the activities and discussions taking place within Iran’s ‘Arzeshi’ community. The ‘Arzeshi’ are Iranian online conservative activists who remain deeply devoted to the Supreme Leader, and powerfully influenced by the revolutionary values of the state. Taking in a number of online platforms, our study looks at the Arzeshi presence on the blogosphere, as well as their Google+ and Twitter communities. Iranian officials have claimed there to be tens of thousands of Arzeshi activists online, busily combating reformists and anti-government protesters in cyberspace. But are these figures accurate? And is there really a single, unified bloc of conservative activists, or is the truth more complex? We’d like to tell you the story of the Arzeshi over the course of the 2013 presidential election. We’ll walk you through the big political issues they care about, draw out the diversity of the community’s opinions, and then assess just how much influence these hardcore supporters of the Supreme Leader have in Iranian cyberspace.
  3. 3. PIECING TOGETHER THE ARZESHI COMMUNITY Google+ Twitter Blogs BLOGS In February 2013, we took our list of 150 active Arzeshi blogs, and indexed the thousands of links we harvested from their landing pages. We then repeated this same ‘crawling’ process on all of these new links, giving us hundreds of thousands more. This ‘two-step crawl’ was repeated before, during, and after the 2013 presidential elections. Our extended network is built from more than a million links.
  4. 4. PIECING TOGETHER THE ARZESHI COMMUNITY Google+ Twitter Blogs GOOGLE+ We started our Google+ research by looking at the 60 bloggers from our original blogs list who also had Google+ accounts. We called the Google+ API (Application Programming Interface), and gathered the 100 most recent activities (+1s, comments, and reshares) from each of these users. We repeated this before, during, and after the elections.
  5. 5. PIECING TOGETHER THE ARZESHI COMMUNITY Google+ Twitter Blogs TWITTER Firstly, our research team compiled a list of 75 known Arzeshi Twitter users. Then, we called the Twitter API to gather the IDs of who they follow, of who follows them, the number of tweets they’ve published and the date they registered on Twitter.
  6. 6. So what do we mean when we use the term ‘Arzeshi’? Why did we choose this term, rather than ‘pro-government’ or ‘conservative’? And can we be sure that this is the way the community identifies itself?
  7. 7. ARZESHI VS CONSERVATIVE ARZESHI CONSERVATIVE 188 43 METHODOLOGY It is unclear exactly where the term Arzeshi originated from, but has been used as an identifying label by online Iranian conservative activists since the disputed 2009 elections, being favoured over mohafezeh-kar, the more literal translation of the term ‘conservative’. The term Arzeshi translates literally as ‘Valued’, and signifies the loyalty these users feel to the founding principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. To see which term was most widespread within the community, we took the top five blogs in our network during January, and ‘scraped’ all of the text from their front pages. We then counted the number of times that the bloggers used the terms Arzeshi and mohafezeh-kar. The results turned out in favour of Arzeshi, so this is the term we’ll use.
  8. 8. We’ve established the name of the community. But next we’d like to build an impression of its politics, firstly by seeing which politician’s website received the most links from the Arzeshi blogging network.
  9. 9. SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL FIGURES Ali Khamenei Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Saeed Jalili 4622 IN-LINKS 974 IN-LINKS 197 IN-LINKS Supreme Leader Khamenei casts the largest shadow over the Arzeshi community, by far. Former President Ahmadinejad and his potential replacements were of far less interest to Arzeshi bloggers, with comparatively few bloggers linking to their official websites.
  10. 10. To understand why the Supreme Leader is such an influential figure amongst the Arzeshi, it’d be helpful to give a quick run-down of how the Iranian regime is structured.
  11. 11. STRUCTURE OF REGIME PARLIAMENT The Iranian Parliament is made up of 290 seats, with elections being held every four years. Candidates that wish to stand for Parliament must first be vetted and approved by Iran’s Guardian Council to ensure that they meet the state’s strict religious, educational and political standards.
  12. 12. STRUCTURE OF REGIME GUARDIAN COUNCIL The Guardian Council is the body responsible for vetting election candidates and approving legislation. Half of its members are clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, whilst the other half are jurists elected by the Parliament.
  13. 13. STRUCTURE OF REGIME ASSEMBLY OF EXPERTS The Guardian Council is the body responsible for vetting election candidates and approving legislation. Half of its members are clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, whilst the other half are jurists elected by the Parliament.
  14. 14. STRUCTURE OF REGIME EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL The Expediency Council is a body wholly appointed by the Supreme Leader. Its role is to act as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, whilst also being responsible for settling any disputes between the Parliament and the Guardian Council.
  15. 15. STRUCTURE OF REGIME MEDIA CONTROL The Supreme Leader exerts immense control over the official media organisations of Iran. He is directly responsible for appointing and overseeing the activities of the head of state broadcaster IRIB.
  16. 16. STRUCTURE OF REGIME MILITARY CONTROL As well as being the commander-in-chief of Iran’s armed forces and Revolutionary Guard, the Supreme Leader also exerts extensive influence over paramilitary organisations such as the Basij.
  17. 17. STRUCTURE OF REGIME CULTURAL CONTROL The Supreme Leader is very outspoken against Western cultural encroachment on Iran. He consistently works to advance a narrowly-defined religious conception of national culture.
  18. 18. Khamenei wasn’t able to directly intervene in the 2013 elections, however: his influence was felt through the Guardian Council.
  19. 19. WHO IS THE GUARDIAN COUNCIL? SUPREME LEADER THE SUPREME LEADER SELECTS THE 6 CLERICS OF THE GUARDIAN COUNCIL GUARDIAN COUNCIL THE PARLIAMENT VOTES FOR THE 6 JURISTS OF THE GUARDIAN COUNCIL PARLIAMENT MEMBERS OF THE PARLIAMENT GET PRE-SELECTED BY THE GUARDIAN COUNCIL BEFORE THE PUBLIC CAN VOTE FOR THEM
  20. 20. The Guardian Council was responsible for whittling the 686 applications for the Presidency down to a more manageable field. Up next is an overview of the process. Click on the labels to learn more about the applicants.
  21. 21. 686 PEOPLE APPLIED FOR PRESIDENCY IN 2013 GENDER EDUCATION 30 656 89 212 153 116 FEMALE APPLICANTS MALE APPLICANTS APPLICANTS ACHIEVING PHD APPLICANTS ACHIEVING BACHELORS DEGREE APPLICANTS ACHIEVING MASTERS DEGREE 60 APPLICANTS WITHOUT A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA APPLICANTS WITH RELIGIOUS SEMINARY EDUCATION APPLICANTS WITH UNKNOWN QUALIFICATIONS APPLICANTS WITH A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA AGE 78 66 86 125 101 60 5 OCCUPATION APPLICANTS AGED UNDER 30 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 30 - 35 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 36 - 40 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEB 41 - 45 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 46 - 50 87 83 32 10 74 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 51 - 55 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 56-60 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 61 -65 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 66 - 70 APPLICANTS AGED OVER 71 198 89 91 94 25 SELF EMPLOYED PEOPLE APPLIED POLITICIANS APPLIED UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS APPLIED RETIREES APPLIED DOCTORS APPLIED 20 48 17 14 36 LAWYERS APPLIED TEACHERS APPLIED ARMY PERSONNEL APPLIED CLERICS APPLIED UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE APPLIED
  22. 22. Of the 686 applicants, only 38 sufficiently met the Guardian Council’s educational, political and religious standards to make the shortlist.
  23. 23. 38 APPLICANTS WERE SHORTLISTED GENDER 0 38 FEMALE APPLICANTS MALE APPLICANTS EDUCATION 21 2 10 0 APPLICANTS ACHIEVING PHD APPLICANTS ACHIEVING BACHELORS DEGREE APPLICANTS ACHIEVING MASTERS DEGREE 0 5 0 11 10 9 APPLICANTS WITHOUT A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA APPLICANTS WITH RELIGIOUS SEMINARY EDUCATION APPLICANTS WITH UNKNOWN QUALIFICATIONS 8 APPLICANTS WITH A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA AGE 0 0 0 0 5 AFFILIATION INDEPENDENT APPLICANTS CONSERVATIVE APPLICANTS REFORMIST APPLICANTS GOVERNMENT APPLICANTS OCCUPATION APPLICANTS AGED UNDER 30 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 30 - 35 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 36 - 40 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEB 41 - 45 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 46 - 50 10 11 4 4 2 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 51 - 55 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 56-60 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 61 -65 APPLICANTS AGED BETWEEN 66 - 70 APPLICANTS AGED OVER 71 2 27 4 1 3 SELF EMPLOYED PEOPLE APPLIED POLITICIANS APPLIED UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS APPLIED RETIREES APPLIED DOCTORS APPLIED 0 0 0 0 0 LAWYERS APPLIED TEACHERS APPLIED ARMY PERSONNEL APPLIED CLERICS APPLIED UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE APPLIED
  24. 24. Of these 38 candidates, only 8 made the final cut, taking part in the election campaign.
  25. 25. ALIGNMENT HASSAN ROUHANI MODERATE DESCRIPTION Rouhani is a member of the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Council, the Supreme National Security Council, and the former chief nuclear negotiator. Prior to the 2013 elections, Rouhani was not considered to be a particularly outspoken reformist. But his campaign’s promises to open Iran up to international engagement, prioritise economic recovery, and push for the release of political prisoners helped him to build a coalition of reformists and moderates that would propel his campaign to victory on election day. Click on candidates for more info FINAL RESULT 50.88%
  26. 26. MOHAMMAD BAGHER GHALIBAF DESCRIPTION The Mayor of Tehran since 2005, former national chief of police, and former head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force, Ghalibaf has had a varied career. Though the polls marked him out as an early frontrunner, he struggled to define his campaign clearly. His conservative record and his boasts about personal involvement in crushing the 1999 student protests ensured that he would struggle to reach many voters outside of his conservative base. Click on candidates for more info ALIGNMENT CONSERVATIVE FINAL RESULT 16.46%
  27. 27. ALIGNMENT SAEED JALILI CONSERVATIVE DESCRIPTION The stern, devout and ultra-hardline Jalili was Iran’s top nuclear negotiator from 2007-13. He served as something of a boogeyman to reformists over the course of the 2013 elections. A serious contender early on in the campaign, Jalili’s popularity amongst his hardline religious base was ultimately not sufficient to secure him victory. Click on candidates for more info FINAL RESULT 11.31%
  28. 28. MOHAMMAD REZA AREF DESCRIPTION Aref is a former Minister of Technology, who served in the Khatami administration. Aref ran a fairly uninspiring campaign, reflected in his low polling numbers. He withdrew on June 11, arguing that reformist voters should rally around Hassan Rouhani. Click on candidates for more info ALIGNMENT REFORMIST FINAL RESULT WITHDREW
  29. 29. MOHAMMAD GHARAZI DESCRIPTION Former Oil Minister, and Minister of Post, Telephone and Telegraph in the 1980s. Gharazi’s sudden return to frontline politics baffled many, and his single-note campaign promising to combat inflation excited few. So few, in fact, that there were roughly three times as many spoiled ballots than there were votes for Gharazi. Click on candidates for more info ALIGNMENT MODERATE FINAL RESULT 1.22%
  30. 30. GHOLAM-ALI HADDAD-ADEL DESCRIPTION Adel formerly served as Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, was a former Parliamentary Speaker, and is currently an advisor to the Supreme Leader. His closeness to the Supreme Leader did him no favours in the campaign. After struggling to break into double-digits in the polls, Adel withdrew in the early stages of the race. He endorsed no individual candidate, but warned against the dangers of electing a reformist or moderate. Click on candidates for more info ALIGNMENT CONSERVATIVE FINAL RESULT WITHDREW
  31. 31. MOHAMMAD GHARAZI DESCRIPTION Rezaee served as the head of the Revolutionary Guard in the 1980s, and subsequently as the head of Iran’s Expediency Council. Rezaee is an experienced presidential candidate, having stood in both the 2005 and 2009 contests. This experience did little to help him in 2013 however. Basing his campaign around economic liberalisation and pledges to reduce Iran’s oil dependence, he failed to make a real mark on the race. Click on candidates for more info ALIGNMENT CONSERVATIVE FINAL RESULT 10.55%
  32. 32. ALI AKBAAR VELAYATI DESCRIPTION Velayati is one of a very small number of individuals who can boast of maintaining a position in front-line politics since the 1979 Revolution, serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1981-1997, then as a hard-line member of the Expediency Council and as international affairs advisor to the Supreme Leader. This long career in politics did him few favours in the presidential race. Perhaps the highlight of his campaign was a six-minute campaign video featuring Velayati sitting in an empty cinema, weeping at revolutionary films. This film failed to ignite his campaign, and he finished in fifth place. Click on candidates for more info ALIGNMENT CONSERVATIVE FINAL RESULT 6.16%
  33. 33. OFFICIAL RESULTS OF THE 2013 ELECTIONS In the end, Hassan Rouhani’s victory was a convincing one: he attracted over three times as many votes as Ghalibaf, his strongest conservative rival. If the Guardian Council filters out any contentious candidates, then how far do elections matter in Iran? Shouldn’t the Arzeshi be content with any of the permitted candidates? Although many amongst the Arzeshi have claimed that the election was lost as a result of conservative disunity, the reality is that Rouhani narrowly secured an absolute majority: even combining the totals of his conservative rivals, Rouhani emerges on top with 50.9% of the national vote. Not quite. The track record of the previous two presidents demonstrates that election outcomes can have significant implications for government policy.
  34. 34. FOREIGN POLICY ROUND 1 REFORMIST CONSERVATIVE Khatami 1997-2005 Ahmadinejad 2005-2013 VS In 2013, Khatami’s government proposed a ‘Grand Bargain’ to the United States that would open up a full diplomatic dialogue over isses such as: W idthdrawl of support to Hezbollah Transparent nuclear negotiations Co-operation to stablise Iraq The Initiative was rejected outright by the Bush administration During Ahmadinejad’s presidential term, diplomatic relations between Iran and the West completely broke down, resulting in a number of tense incidents: 2009 - 11 2007 Seizure of Royal Navy imprisonment sailors in the of three Americans Persian Gulf 2011 raid on the British Embassy Consequently, this period also saw ruinous economic sanctions imposed against Iran.
  35. 35. WOMENS RIGHTS ROUND 2 REFORMIST CONSERVATIVE Khatami 1997-2005 Ahmadinejad 2005-2013 VS The Khatami years saw a number of notable advancements in women’s rights, including: Appointment of women to government posts Reintroduction of Family Protection Law Minimum age for marriage was raised But the onwards march of the women’s rights movement was halted during the Ahmadinejad years. This period saw: Closure of women’s publication Zanan Stricter dress code laws Stage encouraged large families
  36. 36. WOMENS RIGHTS ROUND 2 REFORMIST CONSERVATIVE Khatami 1997-2005 Ahmadinejad 2005-2013 VS Opportunities for free cultural expression expanded dramatically during the Khatami years. His government tried (and failed) to pass a law legalising the ownership of satellite TV dishes. Property seizures and arrests relating to satellite TV consumption fell during this period. However. Ahmadinejad’s government oversaw an intensified campaign to lessen the cultural impact of satellite TV and the Internet. Private satellite dishes were destroyed in large numbers by basiji militias. Satellite jamming technology was introduced, and internet censorship programmes were stepped up.
  37. 37. So how did the Arzeshi react to the election of the moderate Rouhani in June? These reactions collected from Google+ demonstrate a generally downcast mood.
  38. 38. GOOGLE+ USERS’ ELECTION REACTIONS Click on the speech bubbles for more info
  39. 39. Noting the Arzeshi’s rejection of the new president, we thought it’d be interesting to see whether the Arzeshi blogging community engaged with the conservative press, which was similarly hostile to Rouhani.
  40. 40. The chart below shows the big Iranian media owners, with segments sized by the number of links Arzeshi bloggers made to their news sites. Mouse-over the image to see which presidential candidates these media owners backed in 2013: Jalili scooped up a great deal of establishment support.
  41. 41. ARZESHI MEDIA ENGAGEMENT JALILI REZAEI HADAD GHALIBAF N/A
  42. 42. This shows us how the Arzeshi interact with the ‘old media’ institutions of the conservative press. But how do these same bloggers make use of social networking sites? And do they respect the state’s censorship policies, and stick to statesanctioned networks like Afsaran and Cloob? Or do they use Facebook and Twitter in spite of the restrictions?
  43. 43. The map below shows how users connected to different social networking sites at each data collection point in our study. The outer ring is made up of the individual users that linked to a social networking site at each point, and the inner ring is comprised of the social networks themselves, sized by the number of links they received.
  44. 44. Click on the labels on the right-hand side to toggle the display of users’ links to each site. For example, clicking ‘Facebook’ will show all of the links Arzeshi pages made to the site.
  45. 45. SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS - DECEMBER All blocked sites
  46. 46. SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS - DECEMBER All non-blocked sites
  47. 47. SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS - JUNE All blocked sites
  48. 48. SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS - JUNE All non-blocked sites
  49. 49. SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS - AUGUST All blocked sites
  50. 50. SOCIAL NETWORK LINKS - AUGUST All non-blocked sites
  51. 51. Next up, we’ll take a closer look at our wider blogging network. There was a staggering volume of data here, so we’ve broken the important information down into some more manageable chunks.
  52. 52. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE We gathered our blogging data at three separate time points - in February, June and August. Taking samples from timepoints months apart, we expected to see some gradual changes in the structure of the network. However, we actually saw that there was a striking contunuity in the structure of the network across each of our data points.
  53. 53. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE So rather than taking each of these data sets in turn, we decided to take an average of our statistics from across the three time points and to analyse the average make-up of the network over the whole period. This way, rather than drowning in a sea of superfluous data, we could focus on analysing the actual content of the blogs in the network.
  54. 54. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? This circle represents the average size of our blogging network across the period studied. From this data it would appear that the Arzeshi blogging network is in fact made up of tens of thousands of blogs and websites, which may suggest there to be some element of truth in the government’s claims for the existence of an online legion of conservative Arzeshi activists. Then we started to dig deeper. Click on the networks below to see which blogs remained when we started filtering out the ones that received the least links. For example, clicking on the [>5] network will eliminate all of the blogs that received fewer than 5 links from other sites in the Arzeshi network. The [>100] network, meanwhile, shows only the most well-read blogs that received over 100 links. Click on a group for more info
  55. 55. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? We found that 42264 blogs and websites were connected to our network by only a single link: that’s 62.5% of our total. Such tenuous connections imply that these blogs are either not sufficiently related to our network to be considered Arzeshi, or instead that these blogs, whilst similar in style and content to other Arzeshi blogs, simply have no readership or influence. SINGLE We took a closer look at a number of these onelink wonders. Read more about some of these blogs below. 42264 Click on a post for more info. Find more content analysis online TIMEPOINT 1 TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  56. 56. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE OSVAH.PERSIANBLOG.IR BLOG NAME Osveh SINGLE BLOG DESCRIPTION This blog copies content from news websites and other online sources. 42264 TIMEPOINT 1 TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  57. 57. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? There is another sharp drop when we look at the sites receiving 10 or more links from our network. On average, only 3564 of the sites in our network that’s 5.3% of our total - managed to attract 10 or more links from elsewhere. >5 8613 Click on a post for more info. Find more content analysis online TIMEPOINT 1 TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  58. 58. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE MKAZEMY.BLOGFA.COM BLOG NAME City of God >5 8613 BLOG DESCRIPTION Moussa Kazemi is this blog’s author, and is studying for a MA Political Science degree. His blog is inactive, and it seems as though he has retired from blogging for the time being. TIMEPOINT 1 TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  59. 59. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? There is another sharp drop when we look at the sites receiving 10 or more links from our network. On average, only 3564 of the sites in our network that’s 5.3% of our total - managed to attract 10 or more links from elsewhere. >10 3564 TIMEPOINT 1 x TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  60. 60. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? By this point we have lost the vast majority of our network. An average of 955 sites attract 25 or more links from our network, representing around 1.4% of our total. Given that these blogs are receiving a modest number of links, we can say that the blogs represented from here on out are more regularly updated, and richer in original content. >25 955 Click on a post for more info. Find more content analysis online TIMEPOINT 1 TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  61. 61. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE KAF-ALEF.PERSIANBLOG.IR >25 955 BLOG NAME A Piece of Heart POST TITLE Sattar Beheshti’s arrogance, or FATA? BLOG DESCRIPTION Kobra Asoopar is a journalist based at the hardline newspaper Javan - an organisation with close ties to the IRGC. She has been loudly opposed to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since he embraced Mashaei as a political ally. Similarly to the majority of the Arzeshi, she strongly supports the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. In the 2013 election, she supported Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, but following his withdrawal from the race, she refused to comment on her election choices. BLOG DESCRIPTION Asoopar strongly criticized Iran’s Cyber Police (FATA) for their conduct during the controversy over the death in custody of blogger Sattar Beheshti. Asoopar argues that Beheshti was originally an insignificant activist, but that his death has opened the government up to widespread criticism and popular outrage. She notes that as a consequence of Beheshti’s death, his blog - which used to receive less than 10 visits per day - has exploded in popularity. DATE 14 January 2013 TIMEPOINT 1 TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3 x
  62. 62. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? Here, we start to lose all but the active core of the Arzeshi community. An average of 316 sites received 50 or more links over the course of this study, comprising 0.5% of our total network. We can say, therefore, that around one in every 200 of the sites and blogs in our network could be considered ‘core Arzeshi’ domains, receiving a significant number of links from across the Arzeshi community. >50 316 Click on a post for more info. Find more content analysis online TIMEPOINT 1 x TIMEPOINT 2 TIMEPOINT 3 x
  63. 63. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE AHESTAN.WORDPRESS.COM // AHESTAN.IR >50 316 BLOG NAME Ahestan POST TITLE Who was the winner of the debates? BLOG DESCRIPTION Omid Hosseini is the author of this blog. This address is an older version of his blog ahestan.ir, and hasn’t been updated since June 2010. Ahestan’s new address is located at ahestan.ir and is updated regularly. BLOG DESCRIPTION Hosseini believes that the last presidential debate (on the subject of foreign policy) was the best of the three, arguing that it was particularly significant due to its subject matter. In his opinion, there was no clear winner coming out of the debate, although he says Ali Akbar Velayati, Saeed Jalili and Hassan Rouhani were better than the other candidates. LINK TIMEPOINT 1 x TIMEPOINT 2 TIMEPOINT 3 x DATE 7 June 2013
  64. 64. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? The blogs and websites in this segment could be considered the ‘inner core’ of the Arzeshi community, making up just 0.2% of our total network, on average. Yet these sites are much more active than those we see in the outer segment of the network. >100 We do see one notable change across the period of our study: a number of high-profile Arzeshi blogs appear to become somewhat inactive in the aftermath of Rouhani’s election victory. 105 Click on a post for more info. Find more content analysis online TIMEPOINT 1 x TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3
  65. 65. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE KISTIEMA.BLOGFA.COM // YAMINPOUR.IR >100 105 BLOG NAME Who We Are BLOG DESCRIPTION Vahid Yaminpour is a prominent Arzeshi blogger who was previously a television presenter with the state broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. He supported Saeed Jalili in the 2013 campaign. LINK POST TITLE In the field of art and culture, will anything change!? BLOG DESCRIPTION This post discusses the newly-appointed Minister of Culture Ali Jannati, as well as providing an analysis of Rouhani’s cultural policies. Yaminpour notes that Jannati is a good choice to head up the ministry, owing to his record as an able diplomat, though he concedes that he has little background in cultural matters. In addition, Yaminpour reminded his readers of the ‘soft war’ being waged by the West against Iranian society. He warns the government to tread a cautious path on cultural matters, and to be guarded against individuals hijacking the cultural ministry in the name of ‘freedom of expression’. DATE 17 August 2013 TIMEPOINT 1 x TIMEPOINT 2 x TIMEPOINT 3
  66. 66. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE WHAT DO I SEE HERE? We’ve looked at one way to measure Arzeshi activity: by looking at the number of links that blogs receive, we can get an idea of their readership, and influence. But another way to measure the Arzeshi community’s activity is by looking at the number of blogs that linked away to social networking sites and news sites. This method allows us to assess the extent of integration between the Arzeshi blogosphere and social media platforms, as well as their level of engagement with the conservative press. Click on a group for more info
  67. 67. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE NEWS SITES STORY NEWS SITES 1472 We’ve already seen that when Arzeshi engage with media sources, they tend towards conservative news outlets, but just how much of the overall network links to these sites? Surprisingly little - at each of our three data collection points, we found that only around 2% of the Arzeshi network linked to any one of the 22 most prominent news agencies in our network. But looking closer at some of our sample blogs, we start to see why: whereas a lot of content does get recycled from around the network, Arzeshi users aren’t very reliable at attributing their news posts. These are examples of blogs that post a lot of unattributed content from other sites LINK 1 Click on a group for more info LINK 2
  68. 68. THE ARZESHI BLOGSPHERE SOCIAL MEIDIA STORY SOCIAL MEDIA If old media sources like news sites are poorly integrated into the wider network, then what about social media sites? Are they any better-integrated? No, actually - they fare even worse than the news sites. The top 11 social networking sites in our network were linked to by an average of less than 1% of the sites in our network. 633 Click on a group for more info In part, this may be due to the official state restrictions on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter: although Arzeshi operate Google+ and Twitter accounts fairly openly, attaching actual links to these forbidden accounts from their blogs may make them liable to be taken down. Regardless, the lack of links between blogs and social networks underlines the disconnected nature of the Arzeshi community across different platforms - there are very few connections binding the blogging community to the Google+ and Twitter Arzeshi.
  69. 69. Now we turn to the Arzeshi community on Google+. The most interesting feature of this community is the active engagement between Arzeshi: whereas Arzeshi blogs are the place to publish lengthy tracts of political commentary, Google+ offers far more opportunities for the Arzeshi to exchange opinions and get into debates.
  70. 70. The next section maps the relationships between Google+ users, and will show the way in which Arzeshi users interact with one another’s posts. Make sure to play around with the filters to get an idea of the network’s structure, and check out the conversation topic maps to see what the Arzeshi were talking about.
  71. 71. Conversation starters are the big players in the Google+ network: they write the posts that people engage with most. Click on each user to highlight their posts in the network. Conversation keepers are the users that comment on and interact with these posts. Though they don’t necessarily make popular posts themselves, their comments on other posts keep the community alive. Click through the ‘Topics’ labels to read the actual conversations held by Arzeshi activists. Switch between pre-, mid- and post-election views in the top-left.
  72. 72. TO VIEW THIS MAP PLEASE VISIT UNMASKTHEARZESHI.COM
  73. 73. SAMPLE OF CONTENT ANALYSIS
  74. 74. SAMPLE OF CONTENT ANALYSIS
  75. 75. As well as Google+ we wanted to look at how the Arzeshi community organised itself on Twitter. So once again, we took 75 high-profile Arzeshi Twitter users that we had been previously monitoring, and set them as the core of our Arzeshi network.
  76. 76. CORE TWITTER USERS The next chart shows our 75 original Twitter users, the dates they registered on Twitter, and their number of followers. As you’ll see, one of our users had far more followers than anyone else, and broke any kind of graph we tried to work with. We excluded this user from the rest of our Twitter analysis to create a more reflective portrait of the broader network and to prevent them from skewing things completely. Why? The account, unsurprisingly in a league of its own, is @Khomeinii1 (watch out for the extra ‘i’), formerly a Twitter fan page for the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, it has since been hijacked by an unknown individual.
  77. 77. CORE TWITTER USERS Click on the graph to see it online
  78. 78. RECIPROCITY ON TWITTER In the next image you’ll see a circular graph. Around the outside are our 74 original Twitter users, ranked anti-clockwise from most-followed to least-followed. The mutual connections between them are highlighted in red. There are no mutual connections at all between the 10 most-followed Twitter users in this network. Only 3 of them have posted recently, and they tend to post only on significant national or religious holidays. This typifies the factionalised Arzeshi community and debunks the theory that pro-government propaganda on Twitter is regular and pervasive.
  79. 79. RECIPROCITY ON TWITTER
  80. 80. We next wanted to see whether this fragmentation and lack of connection existed within the extended Twitter Arzeshi network - meaning our original 74 users along with all their followers, and the users they followed.
  81. 81. RECIPROCITY AND POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE
  82. 82. RECIPROCITY AND POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE
  83. 83. RECIPROCITY AND POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE
  84. 84. RECIPROCITY AND POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE
  85. 85. RECIPROCITY AND POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE
  86. 86. RECIPROCITY AND POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE
  87. 87. Arzeshi community across three separate platforms, it is apparent that the community is neither as united, nor as immense as state officials like to argue. State claims of a sprawling online network of conservatives are bogus, with much of the network padded out with low-content pages. Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned: The Arzeshi failed to unite around a single presidential candidate - they are not a disciplined political force, but a fractious online community like any other. The Arzeshi are united in one thing - their utter devotion to Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Arzeshi have a number of unofficial ‘leaders’ who shape conservative opinion across various platforms, with journalists such as Vahid Yaminpour and Kobra Asoopar leading the charge. The Arzeshi represent a genuine community - they take time off from political discussions to form lasting social connections and share personal stories.
  88. 88. Credits: Senior Researchers James Marchant Amin Sabeti Bronwen Robertson Ali Fisher Senior Designer Maral Pourkazemi Junior Designers Isabel Beard Andrea Paolini Web Developer Arturo Cullinane presented by:

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