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Iran wants to block what little social media it has left

Iranians who love WhatsApp, it's time to get a VPN.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Sep 23, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 1:10 pm CDT

Iran’s chief prosecutor, not content with blocking most social media, has set a new deadline to censor all of it.

In a strongly worded open letter, chief prosecutor Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei accused President Hassan Rouhani’s administration of allowing citizens to access sites “with immoral and criminal content,” Reuters has reported. Mohseni-Ejei called for the blocking the few major social sites left, like Tango, Viber, and WhatsApp. The country already blocks popular American social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

The letter explicitly reveals some of Iran’s stark political conflicts. In January, Culture Minister Ali Jannati told Al Jazeera that “many Iranians are using Facebook” and that “sooner or later this restriction must be lifted.” Rouhani himself had earlier indicated a desire to liberalize the country’s Internet policies, and he maintains both a Persian and English language Twitter account.

But Rouhani’s minister of information and communications technology, Mahmoud Vaezi, told reporters in August that “the Rouhani government never promised to open things that were filtered in the past.” And recent reports from Iran indicate that Iran has been blocking non-state sanctioned news sites.

At least some Iranians are fighting back, and more will likely do so in the coming weeks, unless Iran finally follows through and replaces its citizens’ Internet access with a statewide intranet. According to one recent study, more than two-thirds of Iranian young people who get online use the anonymizing service Tor or some other kind of circumvention technology to get around government blocks.

Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Sep 23, 2014, 3:24 pm CDT