Nearly 8 years ago Twitter and Facebook got banned by the Iran’s government. But things have changed and now there is official news that Rouhani’s government is trying to remove the ban on Twitter.
8 years ago there were no 3G or 4G internet connections. Back then there were only two Mobile Network Operators in the country and the speed of mobile internet connection was really poor, maybe 100Kbps. Social Networks were new phenomena in the country and there was no plan for them from the government. Similar to other new things, at first the government decided to ban these services. Many things have changed since that time, many government organizations have been formed to study these online services to bring solutions, define laws and develop the culture of using these services. We can even observe the reaction of the government toward the social networks such as Instagram or Telegram which have never been banned in the country. And we are not only talking about the political issues but criminal issues and frauds as well.
We had many fraud incidents on Telegram but the government never banned this messaging app but instead tried to define the laws which were needed to prevent these kinds of frauds. It was in 2012 that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, signed an order establishing the Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC). This order established the SCC as the body responsible for coordinating and implementing cyberspace policy in Iran. This body is tasked with formulating Iran’s Internet policies as well as devising plans to regulate its use in accordance with the Iran’s constitution. This was a turning point in Iran’s cyberspace simply because before that there was no centralize entity governing the cyberspace in Iran. Maybe the main reason that Instagram and Telegram never got banned in the first place was because of the insights that this organization brought to the table; that banning is not the answer and instead the government should invest in local content to build the culture.
There are many government officials who have accounts on Twitter or Facebook which are banned right now. Maybe the most famous official figure is Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran with 612K followers and after that Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani with 602K followers. As you might know, the western media is promoting a wrong image about Iran, and when you don’t have access to western media, the social networks can play an important role to correct that image to some extent. Maybe that’s one of the main reasons that Rouhani’s government got engaged on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to have a channel of communication with the world when the western media is so biased.
According to the report of Farda News, right now the office of Imam Khomeini, the office of Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and political figures such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ghasem Soleimani, Aziz Jafari, Mohsen Rezaee, Seyyed Hassan Khomeini, Ali Jannati, Mohammad Reza Aref, Mohammad Nahavandian, Masoumeh Ebtekar, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Abbas Araghchi and many other officials have Twitter accounts.
Removing the ban on Twitter is not in the hands of the government but in the hands of the Committee for Determining Instances of Criminal Content, according to Mahmoud Vaezi, Iran’s Minister of Communications. This Committee has 12 members including Attorney General as the Chairman of the Committee, Minister or representative of the Ministry of Interior, Minister or representative of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Minister or representative of the Ministry of Justice, Minister or representative of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Minister or representative of the Ministry of Science Research and Technology, Minister or representative of the Ministry of Education, Chief of Police, An expert in ICT appointed by the Parliament Committee of Industries and Mines, a member of Judicial and Legal Committee who has been approved by the Parliament, Head of Islamic Propagation Organization and the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.
The fate of Twitter in Iran is in the hands of this Committee. Soon the decision would be made, until then stay tuned to find out about the outcome.