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Summary:

When the filters stopping Iranians from using popular Western social media services evaporated on Monday, some suspected a thaw in the country’s censorship policies. They were wrong.

Waving flags

On Monday evening, Iranians found that national web filters blocking access to Facebook and Twitter had gone down. The blocks have been in place for four years, in an attempt to hamper the organizational capabilities of anti-government protesters.

Was this the work of new president Hassan Rouhani, a relative liberal who had promised to cut down on censorship? Observers certainly suspected a momentous shift in policy:

However, it appears this wasn’t quite the thaw people thought it might be.

On Tuesday, some people reported the block was back up, and the state news agency Mehr quoted Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, the head of Iran’s filtering and monitoring committee, as saying the incident was the result of a technical problem on the ISPs’ side.

“The lack of a filter on Facebook last night was apparently due to technical problems and the technological committee is investigating this issue,” Khoramabadi said (as translated by Israel’s Haaretz). “We are investigating to see which of these [internet providers] has done this.”

Sorry, Iranians – looks like it’s back to VPNs and other block-bypassing mechanisms for you (for now at least).

  1. No rouge govenment is going to survive the wrath of the people if there is unfettered access to information which is why Iran spends so much time controlling the internet as well as trying to confiscate illegal satellite dishes throughout the country (apparently they’re not big fans of that either). I am curious though if the study looked at Iran’s blockage of social media websites and how they’ve been used throughout the Arab Spring revolts to organize protests. Khamenei and now Rouhani know the power of communication and they will be intent on restricting it. I give A LOT of credit to Iranian bloggers and others who have used ways to circumvent the Iranian cyberwall. They are taking a big risk to try and get information, pictures and video out of dissent and we should recognize it. I just hope that new technologies get developed to help blast through this wall and help fuel the kind of regime change Iranians deserve.

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