Political Discourse on Iranian Twitter During the 2016 Parliamentary Elections
Authored by James Marchant, Amin Sabeti, Kyle Bowen, John Kelly, and Rebekah Heacock Jones
“#IranVotes: Political Discourse on Iranian Twitter During the 2016 Parliamentary Elections,” a report in collaboration between Small Media and Internet Monitor, is the ninth in the Internet Monitor special report series, which focuses on key events and new developments in Internet freedom. The report maps and analyzes the content and structure of the Iranian Twittersphere over the course of the 2016 legislative elections in order to identify the communities that developed around various political, social, and cultural issues and to assess the influence of online political campaigning on the platform.
Although Twitter remains blocked by the Iranian authorities, the widespread use of circumvention tools by Iranian citizens has allowed them to make use of it as a free and open space for public engagement around contentious and divisive political and social issues. Using a mixed-methods approach combining social network analysis with qualitative content analysis of election-related content of the Iranian Twittersphere during the elections, we identify and analyze 46 clusters of users ranging from human rights activists through to reformist and conservative political commentators, technology advocates, and literature enthusiasts. In addition to these interest-bound clusters, we also observe that the network is home to extensive networks of everyday users, who share jokes, idle chatter, and flirtatious messages. Although the Twittersphere hosts a significant volume of political content, it is by no means a purely political space.
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Internet Monitor is a research project based at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Internet Monitor's aim is to evaluate, describe, and summarize the means, mechanisms, and extent of Internet content controls and Internet activity around the world. The project helps researchers, advocates, policymakers, and user communities understand trends in Internet health and activity through research, analysis, and data visualization. Internet Monitor is funded by the US Department of State and the MacArthur Foundation. For more, see thenetmonitor.org.