Iran’s new communications minister said Tuesday that negotiations were underway with Twitter to unblock the service. Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi told an Iran daily newspaper, “(Twitter) has announced that it is prepared to negotiate to resolve problems. Considering the current situation there are grounds for such negotiation and interaction. Twitter is not an immoral environment needing to be blocked.”
Jahromi became Iran’s communications minister this week, a selection criticized by rights groups due to his involvement in surveillance during and after the mass anti-regime protests of 2009.
In a meeting with lawmakers this week, he responded to his critics, “I wasn’t responsible for surveillance — I was in charge of the technical infrastructure for the surveillance industry, and I consider it an honor.”
In Iran, platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter remain banned, while millions use them daily through easily available privacy software.
Jahromi claims that officials are looking at ways to unblock YouTube while still censoring “immoral content” on the video-sharing service.
There has been no comment from either Twitter or YouTube.
The Supreme Council for Cyberspace, which includes members of the hardline judiciary, will make the final decision on unblocking sites.
The first time that Twitter and social media were widely used to organize protests was during the 2009 protests. It became the model for the Arab Spring movement.
Jahromi, who has more than 4,000 Twitter followers, said, “At that time and based on remarks made by the director of this network, Iran’s government believed they had interfered in the country’s internal affairs and for this reason Twitter was filtered.”
Despite the ban, Twitter is widely used in Iran, especially by the youth of the country.
Even supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has official accounts in several languages.
President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif both use the service, as well.
Still, conservatives are worried over “Western infiltration” through social media.
Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Movahedi Kermani, who heads the Committee for the Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice, said in December 2016, that the dangers of the internet were even greater than women failing to wear a headscarf. In a speech to religious leaders he said, “Bad hijab is a bad thing but cyberspace is a hundred times worse.” He cited the presence of pornography and anti-religious sites. “Cyberspace can uproot religion and Islam completely,” he added.