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Facebook in Iran


“Sorry, something went wrong. We're working on it and we'll get it fixed as soon as we can,” said a message on Facebook website in the morning of 27th January 2015. Facebook being down for 40 minutes along with its subsidiary social media, Instagram caused a global panic on those limbo moments. Considering the number of monthly active users which is around 1.23 billion, a small dysfunction would contribute to big fear for members. Users showed up their shocks on their alternative social media on Twitter. Thinking a life without social media seems to be impossible for most of us, our main virtual life contains surfing on our favorite social networks including, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. While such a short absence of our daily connection made a wide frustration among internet users and popped up with news around it, there are people in some countries like Iran that accessing to social media has become part of their everyday struggles.

Iranian users had accessed to social media freely till a day after the historical presidential election in June 2009.The website was banned because of fears that opposition movements were being organized on the website. Social media, especially Facebook, were an alternative space of dialogue among Iranian citizens, a sphere that the opponents’ voice were heard and every individual could express ideas about the things going on in the country. And of course there have been users who were utilizing this app for their personal interests, like posting photos, writing about their important personal events and so forth.

However, most social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus have been blocked since then. And using Facebook implies as a crime recently. But if someone presumes users have given up, I should admit that it is totally a wrong assumption. From the beginning of internet censorship in Iran, users found their way to turns the rules. They rely on Facebook for communicating with their friends, families and acquaintances. They demand Facebook to be acknowledged about events occurring in the country which are hidden by mass media. Therefore, they use constantly all these blocked social media. You may wonder how they keep using it. Users are able to get around the blockage of Facebook by using proxy servers, portable hotspots connected to cell phones, and Turkey-based ISP’s.  Iranians also find ways to access blocked websites by downloading virtual private networks (VPNs) to detour the state’s Internet filtering system. To be connected there is another possibility also to buy illegally filter breakers. Therefore, individuals are still connected, although with a low speed.

This Blockage is an apparent Irony when you see the most important features of state are actually the active users of these Spaces. The president, Hassan Rouhani has two Twitter accounts, one in English, and one in Farsi. Even the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shared more than 800 photos with his 22,000 Instagram followers since 2012. So while people get used to apply these bypassing ways to rounding the policies, Governmental staff also rounding their own policies towards internet censorships. There are some vague hopes of finishing the years of isolations, but what will be the horizon is still unknown.

Tiba Bonyad

YEU Intern

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