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Did 15 Of Iran's Cabinet Members Sign Up For Facebook, Or Have We Been Punk'd?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, September 10 2013

Screenshot of Hasan Rouhani's alleged Facebook page

Did Iran's entire Cabinet—15 ministers in total—just open Facebook pages? It appears so, and analysts are a bit unsure what to make of it, considering the social media site is still technically banned in the country. President Hasan Rouhani also has a page that has been duly liked by all 15 ministers.

Bloomberg Businessweek, citing the local Shargh daily media outlet, reported the pages were all visible in Tehran on a proxy server. Proxy servers are how many tech-savvy Iranian netizens evade the online censors.

The Facebook ban has been in place since 2009 after dissidents used it to protest the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At least one observer thinks the ministers' Facebook pages signal looser restrictions in the future.

"Definitely filtering on Facebook will be lifted, and we will witness the elimination of filters (on the rest of) Internet," Saeed Leilaz, a political analyst in Tehran, told Bloomberg Businessweek.

On the other hand, there are disputes between Iranian leaders on the authenticity of the accounts. The Washington Post reported that the Communications Ministry has denied that its leader, Mahmoud Vaezi, is on Facebook.

The Washington Post also quoted Iran's chief Internet overseer, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, as saying, “it is not the time for lifting filters” on Facebook or other banned sites.

If this story sounds familiar, it's because last year techPresident reported that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, appeared to be on Facebook. To date, he still has not denied or confirmed ownership of the page.

The bottom line is that Iran continues to send mixed messages to the world, and nobody quite knows what to make of them yet.

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