Barred from social media, Iranians demand access to Twitter

As Twitter CEO asks Iranian FM to unblock the network in Iran, Iranians say Twitter should offer them greater account protection.

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September 28, 2014 17:46
1 minute read.
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Twitter logo. (photo credit: TWITTER)

 
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Iranians on Sunday launched a campaign on Twitter asking the social network to allow Iran-based users full account verification services, at the same time as the Twitter CEO called on the Islamic Republic to end its ban on the popular social network.

Twitter, like Facebook, is officially banned in Iran. Iran blocked direct access to Twitter in 2009, saying that anti-government demonstrators were using the social network to organize mass protests.

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However, leading Iranian political figures, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, make extensive use of both Twitter and Facebook.

Some Iranians are able to get around the ban by using virtual private networks, or VPNs, software that allows users to connect to banned websites via computers located outside Iran.

The campaign, which uses the hashtag #AddIranToTwitter, comes after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sent a tweet to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday, asking him when the Iranian public would be able to read the Iranian leader’s tweets.

“Mr. President, enjoying your Tweets from the UN. We would love the Iranian people to enjoy them as well. When will that be?” Costolo tweeted.

Costolo sent his message after noticing that Rouhani had made extensive use of Twitter to spread the word about his visit to the United Nations in New York.


On Saturday, Costolo tweeted that he had spoken to Iranian Foreign Minster Zarif by telephone and had discussed “open access to Twitter in Iran”. Costolo has not provided further details of the phone conversation.

As Iranian Twitter users voiced support of Costolo’s campaign, they used the #AddIranToTwitter hashtag to point out that the social network had not made its two-factor account authentication service to Iranian users. This service, Iranians say, would allow them to protect their accounts against hacking. Twitter allows users to associate their cellphone number to their account, so they can receive a log-in code by SMS, preventing password theft.

“Censorship is one side, sanction from @twitter is on other side,” one Iranian tweeted to Costolo in English.

Iranian user @mohsen_sgy also tweeted to Twitter CEO Costolo. “Please add Iran to the list of Twitter to authenticate the identity of Iranian accounts," he wrote.

“We are human like the rest of the world,” another Iranian tweeted.

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