Christie Hui, Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) Team
Chloe Bissett, Editor
Week of Monday, November 14, 2022
Demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini
Claim: Several celebrities and high-level politicians, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have shared claims on social media platforms that the Iranian government imposed the death penalty on approximately 15,000 protestors. Prime Minister Trudeau described the decision as “barbaric” and denounced the Iranian regime.
Iran did not impose the death penalty on 15,000 protesters. At least 14,000 protesters have been arrested in Iran since the protests began. At least 21 protesters face charges for offenses that carry the death penalty.
On November 13, 2022, Iran’s Revolutionary Court issued the first death sentence against a protester connected to the nationwide anti-government demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini. The protester was charged with “setting fire to a government building, disturbing public order, assembly and conspiracy to commit a crime against national security, and an enemy of God and corruption on earth.”
Death sentence rulings in Iran can be appealed. The Supreme Court handles these appeals against death sentences, not the appeals courts.
Analysis & Implications:
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s tweet containing false information will very likely harm his reputation and credibility. As the head of the Canadian government, disseminating misinformation will very likely cause others, namely Canadian citizens and leaders of other nations, to question the credibility of the whole government. His influential position will likely increase the number of people who see his content, including the false statistics. The credibility tied to the position of Prime Minister will likely result in large numbers of people assuming these statistics are factual.
Despite online content moderation efforts to label or remove content containing misinformation, platforms will almost certainly have difficulties discerning facts from false information as news outlets are still reporting developing information. News outlets that do not have their own sources will likely cite other news articles, which almost certainly contributes to the perception that certain pieces of information are credible. The inability to quickly and accurately moderate breaking news allows misinformation to continue spreading, having a greater effect on the audience who are likely more impressionable to new or shocking information.
There is a roughly even chance that this claim is being spread in the West to promote an anti-Iranian narrative. Although there have been international protests against the Iranian government, a mass sentencing of the death penalty against protesters would almost certainly provoke other governments to become involved.
 Trudeau deletes tweet that cited false information as it denounced the Iranian regime, CBC News, November 2022, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-deletes-tweet-iran-1.6652452
 Iran’s Arrest, Death Counts From Protests Climb As Tensions With EU Rise, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 2022, https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-death-toll-eu-tensions-tehran/32128588.html
 Iran: Chilling use of the death penalty to further brutally quell popular uprising, Amnesty International, November 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/11/iran-chilling-use-of-the-death-penalty-to-further-brutally-quell-popular-uprising/#:~:text=The%20cases%20of%20those%20sentenced,Tehran%20for%20a%20group%20trial.
 ‘Death to Khamenei!’: Iranians Defy Regime as Protester Faces Execution, Newsweek, November 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/death-khamenei-iranians-defy-regime-protester-faces-execution-1759275
 Iran charges more than 750 over ‘riots’, issuing first death sentence, France24, November 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/middle-east/20221113-iran-charges-more-than-750-over-riots-issues-first-death-sentence
 “Iran/death penalty: A state terror policy,” International Federation for Human Rights, 2009, https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/Rapport_Iran_final.pdf