UPDATED: For the first time since 2009, millions of Iranians were able to share their status updates on Facebook, for one day, anyway. The New York Times reported that Iran’s government restored its block on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday, blaming a temporary technical glitch for their brief availability in the country.
Insiders told the Times the glitch may have been caused by infighting between groups seeking to regain access to the social networks and hardliners who continue to control the hardware enabling them to block websites.
The country’s government shut down Facebook and Twitter four years ago, when online protests erupted over the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Both The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Monday that users in Iran logged on to find that filtering software no longer blocked Facebook and Twitter. While many Iranians were able to access the popular social media networks, others were still directed to this page.
No one knows how long Facebook will remain active, as governments in the Middle East are generally fickle toward social media. However, the changes come under the leadership of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who says he believes in the free flow of information to Iranians.
With renewed Facebook access comes problems familiar to users in the West. According to AP, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s Facebook page was hacked over the weekend, with someone posting a message about Iran’s controversial 2009 election. Zarif launched his Facebook page in 2009.
“Hurray, I came to Facebook without using VPN,” a Facebook user called Bita posted on her wall. According to the Times, millions of Iranians are avid social media users, and many were able to access Facebook through private servers located outside of the country.
The timing of this sudden warming to Facebook, which AP said is the most popular social network in the country, is curious. Iran is Syria‘s closest ally, and with the world focused on Syria and the hunt for chemical weapons, opening access to Facebook could certainly backfire against the government or the West in the form of online protests, depending on how the U.S. and its allies react.
Readers: Are you surprised that Iran reimposed its block on Facebook and Twitter?
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