Pompeo urges Iran to give public 'unrestricted access' to social media

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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March 27, 2019 03:34
2 minute read.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a NATO foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance's headq

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a NATO foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels. (photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

 
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the welcoming of the Iranian new year (Nowruz) on the official United States State Department's website to advocate that the Iranian public should have free access to social media sites. Currently, the Iranian government restricts social media use.

In 2014, Iranians 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. 

"I would like to wish a Happy Nowruz to the people of Iran, and to everyone who celebrates this ancient tradition that marks the arrival of spring and a New Year, including people in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the Kurdish people and their communities in the United States," Pompeo said on the State Department website.

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

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.

"For millennia, Nowruz has endured as a cornerstone of culture and heritage for many peoples and societies, Pompeo continued. "Nowruz brings family and friends together to reflect on the past while celebrating the future and is a time for connecting with loved ones both near and far. As Iranians celebrate Nowruz this year, they should be able to have unrestricted access to social media sites to share photos of their holiday gatherings and to send New Year's greetings to loved ones living in other cities or even abroad. The proud Iranian people deserve to enjoy the best of life without fear of repression.

He concluded, "May this Nowruz bring new beginnings and a brighter future for everyone!"

The 2014 campaign, which used the hashtag #AddIranToTwitter, comes after Twitter CEO Dick Costolo sent a tweet to Rouhani, 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.

“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.

Since the campaign there has been little change and restrictions still apply.

Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.

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