Iran Teased With Temporary Twitter, Facebook Access

    September 17, 2013

Monday witnessed the ever-so-brief return of Twitter and Facebook to internet users in parts of Tehran, Iran. That is, without requiring them to use anti-filtering software. But as Iranians woke Tuesday morning, the restrictions had been restored.

According to the Mehr news agency, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, of the cyberspace committee tasked with overseeing internet use in the country, blamed a, “technical glitch.”

One of the earliest notices on the lifted restrictions came from New York Times, Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink (seen above).

The social media sites were blocked just after the controversial reelection of the previous president, Mahmud Ahmadi-nejad in 2009. Citizens are typically redirected to a page that says the site they were attempting to reach is blocked.

Public relations changes in the new Iranian president’s office may precede some easing of internet access; changes which may be well-intentioned but have been conducted under the specter of initial blunders. Hasan Ruhani—elected into office early in August—is considered a moderate and has made it a standard of his statements that information flow to citizens need not be contained by Iranian authorities.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hosts a Facebook page and a Twitter account—confirmed earlier this month—from which he tweeted congratulations on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah tweetings issuing from the president’s office were later officially attributed to Ruhani supporters, sparking suspicions that the new administration was testing public opinion but shielding themselves from hardliner criticism. The appointment of a female spokesperson for the foreign ministry also started amidst a Facebook-fielded hoax by an exiled activist.

Zarif Twitter

A Sunday statement from the head of Iranian police forces, Brigadier General Esmael Ahmadi Moghadam, indicated that no official decisions had been made on opening up access, pointing to the cyberspace committee. “Until now we haven’t received any decree from them that anything has changed.”

Though social media use has been illegal in the Islamic Republic, it is suspected that much of the population is active on popular social media sites.

[Images via Twitter accounts of Thomas Erdbrink, Javad Zarif.]