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The Ayatollah Is On Facebook, Even If Iran Isn’t Supposed to Be

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, December 20 2012

Screengrab of The Ayatollah Khamenei's new Facebook page

A Facebook page for Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, appeared online last week. The apparently state-sanctioned page has garnered over 18,000 likes, though the popular social network has effectively been banned in the country since dissidents gathered online to power protests after the 2009 reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The jury’s still out on whether the page is real, though the BBC points out that the Ayatollah already has a slick, multilingual website and Instagram account, and that the Facebook link was apparently posted from his official Twitter page.

The appearance of the Ayatollah on Facebook is paradoxical, as the Iranian government continues to narrow the scope of the Internet in the country; Mehr, an alternative video service to the blocked YouTube was launched earlier this month, and speculations continue that a state-controlled Intranet may eventually create e-isolation in Iran.

In the meantime, many Iranians use VPNs to get onto Facebook, including the Ayatollah’s granddaughter, a chemical engineer who spoke out against Internet restrictions this week in an interview with The Telegraph.

The Ayatollah’s Facebook page appears so far to be receiving positive responses, though most negative comments have been removed by an administrator. If Facebook proves as effective for propaganda as it was for protest, then the Ayatollah may have an important new tool. Yet a platform meant for sharing voices and opinions, likes and dislikes, might not jibe so well with authoritarian theocracy.

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