With half of the country under their 30s and massively improved mobile internet access, social media platforms and messaging apps can play an important role on Iran’s upcoming presidential elections.
Iran has a young population and in every young populated country with a sufficient internet capacity, social media can play an important role in everyday life. Although few of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in Iran these two platforms are not the only ones. There are other social media platforms that are not blocked in the country which Iranians are using them with the same functionality. For example, Instagram is widely used in Iran and people are using it every day. The other platform that we call it a semi-social media is Telegram due to some features such as channels, groups and view count. To sum it up, some people are using the blocked social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook via VPNs. And there are other platforms that are not blocked and people are using them with ease, such as Telegram and Instagram. If we wanted to rank these platforms based on Iranian users, Telegram would take the first place with 40M users inside the country (basically half of the country), then Instagram (more than 20M), Facebook, and Twitter. There are no accurate statistics available on the number of users on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Similar to the previous presidential elections, candidates can reach their audience by national TV, radio, flyers, brochure, gatherings, election rallies, meetings and so on. But with the recent developments of the mobile internet, the young population, and nearly 46M smartphones in the country, you can imagine that being online all the time is part of the everyday life. What happens is that the old channels of communication are not that powerful anymore and it’s costly for the candidates and the parties. Of course, the main source of debates are still happening on national TV but you would see the outcome and the discussions mostly on Telegram, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Even some candidates are using Instagram’s Live feature to reach their supporters.
Social media platforms are easy to use and have no cost comparing to the more expensive and older communication channels. Plus, people can participate in the arguments and exchange ideas actively. Basically, these platforms create a free flow of information back and forth. We should also mention that there are some government officials and candidates who are active in the blocked social media platforms as well. That’s why this year, social media can have a greater impact on the elections more than ever.
There are also some concerns about the fake news, criminal content, privacy violation and disrespectful content on the web that might effect the elections. And that’s true to some extent, people still might believe whatever they hear or see on social media because these platforms are still somehow new to the mass population. That’s why Iran’s Attorney General stated that there are rules in place to prevent such actions from taking place.
We should wait until the end of the elections to find out who’s going to be the next president of Iran and find out more about the impact of social media in the country.