Verified and False Footage of the Iran Protests

Don’t know why people other than paid fakers fake news – plenty of Iranians were uploading from phones until government clamped down on Thursday.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is witnessing the largest anti-government demonstrations since the 2009 presidential elections protests.

Via social media, it is possible to get a sense what’s going on, for example by searching on Twitter for the most ubiquitous hashtags in English and Farsi: #IranProtests and #اعتراض_سراسری.

Social media footage is a way to get a better understanding of what is going on in Iran. The tough digital environment in Iran (and for example the blocking of and removal of Telegram channels) might mean that the analysis based on these social media footage may be hours if not days behind the pace of events, King’s College London lecturer Alexander Clarkson noted.

But it is important to be aware of mislabeled and misattributed footage.

Sometimes, it is really easy to spot a fake. Take the following tweet, for instance, which includes two photos of “an Iranian student” who “decided to remove her veil” and was last seen at a protest at Tehran University.

However, a simple reverse image search shows that the lady is known as Mia Khalifa, a social media personality best known for her career as pornographic actress.

Misattribution is a common problem, as was also highlighted by Twitter @jxckhy tweeted. Indeed, none of the photos or videos are showing the current and ongoing protests. Let’s have a closer look at each one of the images and videos.

The first tweet shows a photo of a woman wearing a hijab gives a flying kick to a group of (riot) police, simply captioned “Iran”. The same photo was also shared by others, such as This may give the impression the photo is from the current protests.

But it is not.

A simple reverse image search shows that the photo is not recent. One of the results on Google leads to a 2014 article by Mashreg News, and hints towards it being from a movie called “The Golden Collars” (Farsi: قلاده های طلا).

The 2012 pro-government block-buster depicts a group of Iranian expatriates which plan to instigate riots in the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections. The photo is part of a series of images showing scenes of the movie.

The specific scene is just over an hour into the movie and the same actress can be seen at the same location. The specific photo appears to have been one of the several photos published by the movie makers at the time.

Emran Feroz, a journalist who shared the photo, says he was aware it was from a movie. He saw the photo on the social media feeds of his Iranian friends who “shared it symbolically”, like him. Nevertheless, he apologises for the “misleading” tweet. He has also made this clear in a thread on his Twitter profile.

The second tweet is an embedded video shared by Twitter-user @KamVTV saying it shows “300,000”protesters marching “for democracy in Iran”. Sometimes, a hint towards misattribution can be as easy as reading the title or the uploader of a video – in this case, “BAHRAINDOCTOR”.

The video namely shows the “March of Loyalty to Martyrs” (Arabic: مسيرة الوفاء للشهداء‎) rally on February 22, 2011, in Manama, Bahrain, where tens of thousands participated during the Bahraini uprising. The video also clearly shows the Bahraini flag. You can watch the original video on YouTube. The tweet is still online as of writing.

The third tweet is another video, this time claiming to show tens of thousands “rising up against the Iranian regime”. The tweet has been deleted since, though is still online on other profiles.

However, this is a video of protests in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires in early December 2017. (You can actually hear people speaking Spanish in the video.)

The fourth and last tweet is a screenshot of a now deleted tweet of Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth, saying “With no option for voting out their supremes leader, Iranians take to the streets to press him to resign.”

However, the attached photo shows that it is a pro-, not an anti-government, rally in Tehran. Again, a simple reverse image search would have done the trick.

But it is important to mention that Roth, just like Feroz, doesn’t make any claims about the image. As is pointed out by others, Roth is not making any claims about the image – it is a preview from the New York Times article he links to. And that Times article properly attributes the demonstration.

From the four tweets, three of them clearly show non-related events. Roth’s tweet simply shared the properly attributed photo from the Times.

Besides, Feroz’ has commented under his own tweet and told Bellingcat that it “shows that people, especially journalists and activists, have to be very careful on social media. There are always many actors who wait for such mistakes or misleadings to use them for their own agenda.”

And that is indeed happening. German public-service television broadcaster ZDF, for example, broadcast a video taken during the 2009 protests as if it was 2017. (Although they rectified it within a day, they are still getting mocked for it.)

For that very reason, it is important to try to verify footage before sharing it; because the misattributions and fakes will just continue to spread on social media. (And that while there is plenty of verified footage from the Iranian anti-government protests.)

Strange, someone is photoshopping images of Chinese app store ranking manipulation workers to appear as Iranian social media manipulation.

— Collin Anderson (@CDA) January 5, 2018

Tips to Verify Footage Yourself:

  1. Image? Always do a reverse image search with both Google and Yandex to see whether the image has been uploaded and indexed before. The RevEye extension/add-on for Chrome and Firefox allows you to right click any image and do a reverse image search right away. It only takes a few seconds!
  2. Video? Always do a reveres image search of stills with Amnesty’s YouTube DataViewer. If it is a Twitter video, you can download the video from the platform and upload it to YouTube to do the trick.
  3. No luck with the first two options? Try to geolocate the footage. Where is it claimed to be taken? Can you verify that using reference photos and satellite imagery? We have geolocation guides if you’d like to start verifying exact locations.
  4. Still no luck? Think as a faker.

The post Verified and False Footage of the Iran Protests appeared first on bellingcat.

Bannon: Adelson drove Jerusalem embassy move

An excerpt from a new book on the Trump presidency confirms: the right-wing billionaire and Netanyahu backer has been a driving force behind the administration’s foreign policy decisions.

By Eli Clifton

American billionaire businessman Sheldon Gary Adelson (L), and his wife Miriam Ochshorn attends the Israeli Presidential Conference at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem May 13, 2008. (Olivier Fitoussi /FLASH90.)

American billionaire businessman Sheldon Gary Adelson (L), and his wife Miriam Ochshorn attends the Israeli Presidential Conference at the International Conference Centre in Jerusalem May 13, 2008. (Olivier Fitoussi /FLASH90.)

Candidate Donald Trump claimed that he wouldn’t be beholden to campaign donors and slammed his Republican primary opponents as puppets of their wealthy patrons. “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!” Trump tweeted in October 2015. But an excerpt from Michael Wolff’s upcoming book Fire and Fury quotes Steve Bannon, who served as CEO of the Trump campaign and went on to become White House chief strategist, effectively confirming that Adelson has been a driving force behind the Trump administration’s foreign policy decision-making.

Adelson and his wife Miriam contributed $35 million to help elect Trump, making the couple Trump’s biggest campaign supporters.

An excerpt published in New York Magazine describes a dinner attended by Roger Ailes two weeks before Trump’s inauguration. Wolff writes [my emphasis]:

Pivoting from Trump himself, Bannon plunged on with the Trump agenda. “Day one we’re moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all-in. Sheldon”—Adelson, the casino billionaire and far-right Israel defender—“is all-in. We know where we’re heading on this … Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.”

“Where’s Donald on this?” asked Ailes, the clear implication being that Bannon was far out ahead of his benefactor.

“He’s totally onboard.”


On December 6, the Trump White House, marking a huge shift in U.S. policy, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declared its intention to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Past presidents refused to move the embassy on grounds that it would upset potential talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and thwart efforts to achieve a two-state solution, but Adelson publicly pushed the White House to make the move.

Earlier this week, Trump went even further, tweeting that he had “taken Jerusalem off [the negotiating] table,” effectively making a unilateral decision about a key issue that previous administrations had maintained could be decided only in talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.

But Trump’s biggest supporter wasn’t pleased with the administration’s slowness to fulfill its campaign promise.

Adelson, who once accused Palestinians of existing “to destroy Israel,” was reportedly “furious” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in May for suggesting in a Meet The Press interview that moving the embassy should be contingent on the peace process, a position consistent with that of previous administrations. Axios reported:

[S]ources say the Las Vegas billionaire doesn’t buy the argument that the embassy move should be contingent on the peace process. He has told Trump that Palestinians are impossible negotiating partners and make demands that Israel can never meet.

Adelson and his wife Miriam spent more than $80 million on Republicans in 2016, and he gave $5 million to Trump’s inauguration.

Adelson even used his own newspaper, the Las Vegas Review Journal, to telegraph his displeasure with Trump’s slowness to deliver on the promised embassy move. “The Adelsons reportedly have been disappointed in Trump’s failure to keep a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on his first day in office,” the Review Journal reported in October. But as Wolff quotes Bannon saying last January, that may have been more than a campaign promise. It may have been a personal promise to Adelson in exchange for his support.

Bannon’s characterization of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and casino billionaire Adelson as the two most important individuals steering U.S. policy on a sensitive matter is a shift from the independence Trump touted as a candidate.

Iran is another issue where Adelson’s influence can be felt. Adelson has proposed deploying a nuclear weapon against Iran and vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal (known as the JCPOA). During the campaign, Trump called the JCPOA “the stupidest deal of all time” and told an American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) audience, “My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” In the middle of January, Trump will face a deadline to reimpose sanctions, potentially in violation of the JCPOA, or waive the sanctions. Here, too, Trump may well reveal that he made a commitment to adopt a hawkish foreign policy in the Middle East in exchange for Adelson’s support.

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and U.S. foreign policy. Eli previously reported for the American Independent New Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service. This article is reprinted, with permission, from