The incoming Biden administration is inheriting from President Donald Trump an Iran-focused social media campaign that dramatically boosted U.S. engagement with Iranians by sharply criticizing their Islamist rulers, a strategy that President-elect Joe Biden appears set to change.
Trump and his State Department used a variety of social media channels, messaging techniques and languages to exert what they called “maximum pressure” on Iran’s ruling clerics to stop perceived malign behaviors.
One dividend of that strategy was a huge increase in audience for the State Department’s Farsi-language Instagram account, according to Gabriel Noronha, who ran its Farsi social media channels from late 2019 to late 2020. In a recent interview with VOA Persian, Noronha said the department’s USAdarFarsi (USA in Farsi) Instagram account grew its followers from 147,000 in January 2019 to 759,000 in January 2021, a more than five-fold increase in a two-year period.
The USAdarFarsi Facebook and Twitter channels also have more than 700,000 followers.
Noronha said most engagement for the USAdarFarsi Instagram account comes from inside Iran where Instagram is the only major Western-run social media platform that Iranians can access freely. Facebook and Twitter are blocked by the Iranian government, leaving them accessible only to tech-savvy Iranians using virtual private networks.