Iran reportedly unblocks social networks

Iran uncensors Facebook

The people of Iran rejoiced yesterday when the state appeared to have temporarily lifted the filter on Facebook and Twitter.

The social media sites have been blocked since the "green revolution" that followed the 2009 elections in Iran, but on Monday were available to parts of the country.

Technical glitch

There was no official announcement to reveal the unblocking of the sites, leading some to speculate that access was a result of a technical glitch. However, newly elected president Hassan Rouhini has described internet censorship in the past as 'futile', and has pledged to relax political censorship on social media sites in Iran.

Over the last four years citizens have been using proxy servers to get around the government's firewall that blocks Facebook and Twitter. Those with the IT skills to do so, have been using the proxy servers to make the system believe that they live elsewhere when accessing their social media accounts.

The move to restrict access came after the widely disputed 2009 re-election of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sparking mass protests throughout Iran often organised via social media.

What follows for Iran

Any attempt to ease control will have to be approved by the ruling establishment of conservative clerics and security officials; including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei, amongst other officials, has been on Facebook since December and Instagram since August 2012, a signal to many in the country that a decision to unblock the services was in the works.

Earlier this year Iranian police revealed that the country was developing "intelligent software" to allow government officials to monitor and control access to social networks.

In January, police chief Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam, stated to 7Sobh daily: "Smart control of social networks will not only avoid their disadvantages, but will also allow people to benefit from their useful aspects."

Moghadam added that "the designing of intelligent software to control social networking websites" was in the works.

Rachel Hand, head of content at theEword said: "Hopefully Monday's activity is a positive for Iran and not only a technical glitch. Social media has come on in leaps and bounds in the last four years and it is important that as many countries as possible are involved in the international conversation, and community."