Balatarin: Gatekeepers and the Politics of a Persian Social Media Site

This paper provides a critical analysis of the Persian social networking sites, with a focus on the popular social site, Balatarin. Founded in 2006, Balatarin is, as aptly described by its co-founder, Aziz Ashufteh, a kind of “news and content aggregator” that promotes dynamic interactivity between Persian speaking users on both national and transnational levels. Balatarin serves as a distinct collective blog site with crowdsourcing capacities that exemplify a transnational Persian language site in the form of an alternative platform for political discussion, circulation of information and news. The paper argues Balatarin, similar to various online practices in emerging Persian social sites, facilitate and also limit political activism in the broader context of transnational communication and market processes. The site involves an exclusionary politics, a process that accelerated after the 2009 election unrests, when discussions on the site effectively became more regulated by administrators, primarily comprised of Green Movement activists, who subscribed to Balatarin. The study provides analysis of case studies of such exclusionary political practices in its online format, and discusses the discursive ways such exclusion is performed in the context of social media processes. The paper concludes with the claim that all forms of politics, including online politics, are about a contentious field of idealism and practice, and varied ways through which online political communities become products of historical circumstances and of competing political persuasions.