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More Confusion Within Iranian Government on Censorship

BY Rebecca Chao | Tuesday, May 6 2014

Over the weekend, Iran announced that it is blocking Whatsapp, according to the Washington Post, but not because of its potential subversiveness. In the words of Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, Secretary of Iran’s Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who recently acquired the app, is "an American Zionist."

Shortly after, President Hassan Rouhani disputed that ban and tweeted on a Twitter account, to which he is associated:

Another account, associated with Rouhani's family and friends and not the man himself, also reminded users of Rouhani's September 2013 interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour in which he reaffirmed his campaign promise to end censorship in Iran:

What this tweet leaves out is that Rouhani's response was a defensive one after Amanpour had astutely pointed out, "...what is your answer to Tweeting and posting on social media when the people of Iran don't have access to that?" The bans on Twitter and Facebook, enacted in 2009, are still in place. A quick scan of Rouhani's Twitter newsfeed, always in English and mild mannered (most recently displaying photos of the flower-strewn fields in Iran's Hamedan province), provides a more forthright answer to Amanpour's question: foreign diplomacy. And not, perhaps, a reversal of online censorship policies, which has changed little since Rouhani took office.

Inside Iran, the digital freedom nonprofit Project Ainita reported trouble with their VPN service on Monday. They write in a blog post:

Yesterday, we noticed our OpenVPN based circumvention services stopped work properly. Looking into logs and with a bit of debugging we came to know that the TIC (Telecommunication Infrastructure Company of Iran), was interfering in all OpenVPN protocol handshakes.[sic]

Project Ainita managed to fix their software and it is currently up and running.

These mixed messages are not new. TechPresident's Jessica McKenzie reported back in July 2013 when Internet speed was slowed down for the June elections that Rouhani had announced he would curtail censorship. But that was just shortly after he was elected. It is now nearing one year since he took office in August 2013.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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