x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Freedom tweets

Does Iranians' ability to access Facebook, albeit briefly, indicate changing times?

On Monday, Iranian internet users were surprised to find out that they could access Facebook and Twitter without restrictions from the government, which has blocked the website since 2009.

Their free access to social media ended the following day, however, after the Iranian authorities restored blocks on both sites. But many people have questioned the incident: was it planned by the government to measure public reactions? Or it was just a “technical glitch”?

While many people have not even noticed their short-lived freedom, some Iranians celebrated what they saw as an ease of internet restrictions, as recently promised by the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani. He called last June for the government and clergy to allow more freedom for traditional and new media.

Iran has always been among the most stringent censors of the internet. In Freedom House’s 2012 report, Iran ranked last in terms of internet freedom.

But what did the Iranians’ status updates say? “Thank you Rouhani!!!”, one user wrote. Well, maybe it’s too soon to say that just yet. For the many who will no longer be able to access their accounts, these posts will stick around for a while. Perhaps that is the point.