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Iran: Complete ban on Facebook and Twitter

Iranian regime officials announced on January 24: “We have completely filtered Facebook and Twitter due to legal issues.”

According to Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, secretary of the ‘Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content’ on the Internet, the decision was made by the ’13 member committee’.

Six of the committee members are the ministers of Intelligence, Communications, Culture and Guidance, Judiciary, and Sciences and Education in Rouhani’s Cabinet.

According to the regime’s official: “Three of its members are from the Islamic Development Organization, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting or IRIB, and the State Security Forces (the police). One member is from the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, and two others are members of the Majlis (parliament).”

Justifying the censorship and filtering, Khorramabadi told a TV program: “Facebook is an American website and is managed by a Zionist, and its other shareholders are Zionists, too… in addition to this, Facebook is a tool at the CIA’s disposal.”

According to the Fars news agency on January 24, 2014, Mehdi Akhavan, a member of the repressive ‘Supreme Council of Cyberspace’ said: “The Ministry of Communications is in charge of imposing the filtering. Of course, we have a body in the judiciary and other places that makes decisions in this regard, assesses the criteria of the websites and clarifies the criminal nature of the content. However, the government is responsible for imposing the filtering.”

“There were not any serious differences of opinion between the ministries, because the Ministry of Communications implements the filtering,” he added.

The Supreme Council of Cyberspace was founded on Ali Khamenei’s personal orders in 2011 to impose repression and filtering of the Internet, and the regime’s most senior officials, including Hassan Rouhani, and IRGC chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, are amongst its members.

The complete ban on Facebook and Twitter is the latest in a series of long-standing repressive measures on Internet users imposed by the Iranian regime.

According to the state-run Bahar daily on January 3, 2014, a new body named the ‘Soft War Headquarters’ was launched by the regime’s Armed Forces Headquarters a year ago, and at least 20,000 IRGC members were allocated to in this entity to ‘carry out Khamenei’s orders to confront the soft war’.

Simultaneously, the IRGC tried to establish a network to cut off Iranian online users from the World Wide Web and force them to use the IRGC-controlled network.

Earlier in January, Ali Khamenei issued a ruling banning online chatting between unrelated men and women.

Meanwhile, Tehran police chief Housein Sajedinia announced the closure of 67 Internet cafes in one week alone in July 2013 (state-run ISNA news agency, July 27, 2013).
Previously, the secretary of the regime’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace had declared as illegal ‘the use of software to bypass filtering to gain access to social networks on the Internet’.