The Iran Disinformation Project | Podcast

United States officials say they are outraged by a government-funded troll campaign that has targeted American citizens critical of the administration’s hardline Iran policy and accused critics of being loyal to the Tehran regime.

As an Iranian American in exile, I never expected the State Department to fund online attacks on me

I recently found out that I am being smeared through an operation funded by the US Department of State. The “Iran Disinformation Project” launched in 2018 with American taxpayer money to expose and counter Iranian government propaganda. But as I broke the news last week, the project has also been smearing human rights activists, academics, and journalists, including myself, who criticize the Trump administration’s hardline policies on Iran.

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Outrage on Capitol Hill over ‘completely unacceptable’ US-funded scheme to shape Iran debate

United States officials say they are outraged by a government-funded troll campaign that has targeted American citizens critical of the administration’s hardline Iran policy and accused critics of being loyal to the Tehran regime.

State Department officials admitted to Congressional staff in a closed-door meeting on Monday that a project they had funded to counter Iranian propaganda had gone off the rails. Critics in Washington have gone further, saying that the programme resembled the type of troll farms used by autocratic regimes abroad.

“It’s completely unacceptable that American taxpayer dollars supported a project that attacked Americans and others who are critical of the Trump administration’s policy of escalation and conflict with Iran,” a senior Congressional aide told The Independent, on condition of anonymity.

“This is something that happens in authoritarian regimes, not democracies.”

One woman behind the harassment campaign, a longtime Iranian-American activist, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Department over the years to promote “freedom of expression and free access to information.”

The campaign relentlessly attacked critics of the Iran policy on social media, including Twitter and Telegram messaging app, accusing them without evidence of being paid operatives of the regime in Tehran.

A spokeswoman for the State Department told reporters on Monday that funding for the “Iran Disinformation Project” had been suspended and is under review after it was reported that it went beyond the scope of its mandate by veering from countering propaganda from Iran to smearing domestic critics of White House policy.

State Department officials disclosed to lawmakers they had granted $1.5 million for Iran Disinfo, which repeatedly targeted, harassed and smeared critics of Trump’s tough stance against Iran on social media.

Among those targeted were American activists, scholars, and journalists who challenged the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran.

The revelation that US taxpayer money was being used to attack administration critics has now sparked a flurry of queries.

“There are still so many unanswered questions here,” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter. “What rules are in place to prevent state-funded organisation from smearing American citizens? If there wasn’t public outcry, would the Administration have suspended funding for Iran Disinfo?”

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