#IranVotes: Political Discourse on Iranian Twitter During the 2016 Parliamentary Elections

June 2016
James Marchant, Amin Sabeti, Kyle Bowen, John Kelly, and Rebekah Heacock Jones

Iran Votes“#IranVotes: Political Discourse on Iranian Twitter During the 2016 Parliamentary Elections,” a report in partnership with Small Media, 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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