Amid Escalating Threats, More Iranian Officials Join Facebook
The Islamic Republic of Iran continues to face a precarious position vis-à-vis Facebook and other social networks. While some Iranian officials have discovered the importance and significance of social networks as tools for disseminating information about their activities and testing the waters for new policies or getting public feedback through online dialogue, use of these social networks is still considered a crime for ordinary Iranians.
Last week Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, Secretary of the Work Group to Determine Instances of Criminal Content on the Internet, called Facebook “an espionage website” which must be blocked. “Considering the Supreme Leader’s explicit reference to Facebook’s effective role in the ‘2009 Sedition'”—referring to public protests following the disputed 2009 elections—”as well as warnings in this regard, issued by the esteemed Grand Ayatollahs, Ulama, and those who care about the regime, I doubt anyone is pondering the necessity of continuing the blocking of this website,” Khorramabdi told Fars News website. The week before that, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi had also expressed dismay at statements made by officials about the possible unblocking of Facebook.
Gholamali Haddad Adel, a conservative MP from Tehran and a high-ranking advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, said on December 6 that decisions about unblocking Facebook must be made by the Parliament. While agreeing with the notion that the Parliament should be involved in decision-making about Facebook, however, Ali Motahari, another conservative MP, told reporters this week that he is still investigating, “to see which one outweighs the other—Facebook’s advantages or disadvantages. Blocking [Facebook] has not led to the elimination of demand for this network. Even my son has a page on Facebook.” Another Rouhani cabinet member with a Facebook page is his Vice President in Women’s and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, whose following includes many social and civil activists and journalists.