By Saleh Hamid
US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Saturday tweeted his anger at the Iranian regime’s use of Twitter, while banning it for the Iranian people.
“Iranian Regime gets to be on @twitter but not the Iranian people…” Grenell tweeted in response to an account purporting to belong to Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani.
Many Iranian leaders have emerged on Twitter, among them Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif – with most having multiple accounts in different languages.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) December 29, 2018
Officially however, the state has tightened its censorship of social media sites. A stricter ban has been in place since the December 2017 protests, in an effort to control further protests over the country’s deteriorating economic and living conditions.
Previously, social media was described as “tools of psychological warfare on Iran’s culture, politics, security and economy” by the head of the Iranian Civil Defense Organization, Gholamreza Jalali Bour.
“The threat of social media is now our top priority, and we are dealing with it as a national security threat,” Bour had said.
Around 79 percent of Iranian users still access social media services through the use of VPNs and proxies to get round the restrictions, according to a poll conducted by the Iranian Student Survey Center.
In an effort to isolate local activists from the outside world, Iranian authorities turned to replacing foreign social media applications and proxies with domestic versions.
Activists protested against this however, saying that citizens do not trust internal applications controlled by intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards.