Disinformation: How Iran could take a page from Russia’s propaganda playbook

A social media expert believes that the fight for screen time is one of the biggest battles of the 21st-century and that harnessing people’s reactions could be a valuable tool in a country’s arsenal, an idea that is especially relevant as tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran.

SocialFlow CEO Jim Anderson told Fox News that Iran could take a page out of Russia’s playbook and sow disinformation through social media to steer people’s reactions. He added that “one of the reasons that Iran or some other foe would do phishing attacks is to basically take charge of people's identities, to get hold of accounts so that they can try to propagate information.”

“The most valuable real estate in the world is not in New York City or Hong Kong or Tokyo,” Anderson said in the interview. “It’s actually the screen of your mobile device…We all spend a lot of time on our devices. There are companies making fortunes and there are governments spending time trying to understand, how do I get that attention harnessed? How do I get people to read, consume, understand, and react?"

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Effectively harnessing those reactions will be critical, especially as social media becomes another front to communicate escalations between countries.  "We've never seen escalations of tensions via Twitter," Anderson added.

Recently, President Trump was saber-rattling via Twitter.

“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

Anderson noted that those who are spreading disinformation want to get the most emotional response out of a post as possible because those are the kind of posts that will go viral and spread across the Internet.

“People running disinformation campaigns benefit tremendously from getting you to spread false information,” he continued. “Because how do you argue with false information? Now you have people battling over really what's even true, much less what you may believe or not believe.”

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Anderson advised how users should approach social media, given the increasingly fraught landscape. He suggested being cautious and slow on social media in order for users to ensure they are consuming factual information.

“Wait 30 seconds or a minute and see if the post still makes you angry or excited, and stop and question the source,” Anderson added. “Maybe just taking a step back, whether you agree with it or disagree with it, and take that virality and ratchet it down a notch or two.”

For more on how to protect yourself on social media and what else to look out for in the battle for screen time, watch Anderson’s full interview above.

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Emily DeCiccio is a reporter and video producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio