Iran’s Coronavirus Disinformation Provides an Opportunity for the U.S.

June 10, 2020 | David T. Glenn and Ari Cicurel
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The Islamic Republic has been one of the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As its rulers try to cover for their own mishandling of the outbreak, David T. Glenn and Ari Cicurel argue that America should try to bring Iranians the truth:

Iran’s leaders are . . . pushing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. Ayatollah Khamenei, among others, has argued it is an American-made biological weapon. Likewise, Khamenei refuses U.S. aid, speculating that American “medicine is a way to spread the virus.” Both arguments are absurd, yet Iran continues to feed these lies to its people and spread them internationally, particularly online.

The United States must strive to reveal the truth about the Islamic Republic’s misdeeds by coordinating comprehensive technological and media responses with international partners. First, providing everyday Iranians with the tools to get truthful information weakens the regime. Much as the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty offered alternative programming in Soviet states during the cold war, supplying greater Internet access in Iran would decrease the effectiveness of false narratives.

Likewise, tailored cyber operations can advance policy objectives to disable or minimize the regime’s ability to spread false information. Introducing measured technological constraints on [Iran’s state-sponsored broadcasting network] can decrease its ability to disseminate the inaccurate narrative about the virus.

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