World War III trends on social media following Soleimani killing
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World War III trends on social media following Soleimani killing

Memes and commentary on possibility of war, US draft take off online as users react to skyrocketing tensions between Washington and Tehran

Iranians march with a banner bearing an illustration of Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani during a demonstration in Tehran on January 3, 2020, against the killing of the top commander in a US strike in Baghdad. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iranians march with a banner bearing an illustration of Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani during a demonstration in Tehran on January 3, 2020, against the killing of the top commander in a US strike in Baghdad. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Social media was rife at the weekend with reactions to the US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, with World War III hashtags trending online on Friday and Saturday and users posting about fears of a US military draft.

The Friday airstrike, ordered by US President Donald Trump, sent Middle East tensions skyrocketing and sparked fears of an all-out war. Iranian officials vowed retribution for the killing, with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei promising to exact “harsh revenge.”

Trump on Saturday evening issued a stark threat to Iran on Twitter, saying that the US had targeted dozens of Iranian sites for strikes in the event of a reprisal.

Hashtags including #WWIII, #WorldWar3 and #WorldWarThreeDraft were trending on Twitter and other platforms, generating hundreds of thousands of mentions.

Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand, named for the archduke whose 1914 assassination sparked World War I, tweeted that it thinks another world war would be “a bad idea” after its name also started trending online.

The possibility of a US military draft also generated thousands of mentions. There have been no official statements indicating that a draft is in the making, and the last US conscription took place in 1973 during the Vietnam War.

The US Selective Service, which maintains lists of potential draft recruits, on Friday sought to calm fears amid rumors of a draft, writing on Twitter that it was “conducting business as usual.” The agency said its website was struggling under “high traffic volumes” due to “the spread of misinformation.”

Users posted memes about being imprisoned for refusing a military draft, or being exempted for medical reasons.

Trump and Soleimani themselves have posted memes about the US-Iran conflict in the past. Soleimani’s popular Instagram account was suspended in April.

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