Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Facebook and Twitter Come Back to Life in Iran

For the last four years, the only way people in Iran have been able to use Facebook and Twitter is by using a virtual private network to get around that country’s internal Internet censors. Today, for reasons that are not as yet clear, that has changed.

The restrictions date back to 2009 and the reelection of Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The election was disputed, and a lot of people were unhappy with the result. In a move that sort of foreshadowed the Arab Spring that came to Tunisia, Egypt and other countries, protesters turned to Twitter. Videos of the June 2009 death of Neda Agha-Soltan at the hands of Iranian police caused a significant worldwide uproar on Twitter at a moment when that sort of thing was still pretty new.

Since then, it has been difficult to tweet and to post to Facebook within Iran, and it’s not clear what happened today to change that, as there has been no official announcement.

The change appears to have coincided with the election of a new and relatively moderate president in Iran, Hassan Rouhani, who has been tweeting along with his foreign minister. Example, a Rosh Hashanah greeting on Sept. 4.

As the New York Times noted earlier, Rouhani had promised to ease Internet censorship in Iran. It’s the job of the Supreme Council for Cyberspace to police which sites are available and which ones are blocked from access in Iran.

Also notable today is the Twitter stream of reporter Thomas Erdbrink, who wrote the Times piece referenced above, and who is one of the few Western reporters based in Iran.

Back in 2009, Google’s YouTube was also a target of the restrictions. According to Google’s Transparency Report, which monitors the availability of its various services in every country in the world, that disruption still appears to be in place.

No comment yet on the matter from Facebook, Twitter or Google; if one comes, I’ll update this post.

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