Social Media as Neurotechnology: A Case Study of Censorship and Propaganda on Twitter Restricted; Files Only

Mohsenzadeh, Alexa (Spring 2023)

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Neurotechnology is an emerging subset of technology that involves the direct manipulation and/or recording of neural activity. This study presents evidence that social media platforms can access and influence neural activity. Therefore, social media platforms ought to be classified as neurotechnology and subject to the same ethical considerations, especially in cases where social media are manipulated for political purposes to control people’s beliefs and restrict the free flow of information. These principles are applied to the case of the usage of Twitter in Iran by government affiliated accounts since the start of the protests in September 2022. The ethical, legal, and societal implications of the control of social media and spread of digital propaganda are assessed. The use of social media as the primary outlet for communication and information sharing through the protests in Iran is an example of how people’s conceptions, belief systems, and behaviors can be tied to social media. Thus, censoring and filtering these platforms to influence people’s thoughts is both a human rights issue and a neuroethical concern that must be addressed using existing guidelines for regulating neurotechnology.

Table of Contents

Social Media as Neurotechnology

Introduction and Significance 1

What is Neurotechnology? 1

Social Media Defined 2

Media vs. Social Media 3

Social Media and the Brain 6

Propaganda and Censorship Defined 14

Propaganda and the Brain 15

Why Neuroethics? 19

Manipulation of Social Media: A Neuroethical Issue 22

The Case of Twitter Usage in Iran, Sept. 2022-March 2023

Overview 25

Methods 29

Results 32

Discussion 44

A Neuroethical Analysis: Ethical, Legal, Societal Implications 44

Limitations and Procedures for Credibility 50

Conclusion 51

References 52

Figures Listed 66

Appendix 72

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