On Monday evening many Iranian internet users were pleased to discover that they could post to Twitter and Facebook without using a virtual private network (VPN) to get around government blocks:
OK people the rumours are true, this is my first tweet ever using Iran’s state cell phone internet service without VPN!!!
— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) September 16, 2013
As Zachary Seward of Quartz pointed out, this would be the first time that access to Twitter, Facebook and other social networks had been allowed freely in Iran since protests after the 2009 elections.
At first glance it appeared to be in keeping with new President Hassan Rouhani’s more open embrace of technology — Rouhani’s new Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had recently held a diplomatic Twitter exchange with Nancy Pelosi’s daughter that touched on Iranian anti-Semitism, for example. However, Iranian authorities are now saying last night was just a glitch.
“The lack of a filter on Facebook last night (Monday) was apparently due to technical problems and the technological committee is investigating this issue,” Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, secretary of a state committee tasked with monitoring and filtering sites, told an official news agency.
On the other hand, the brief removal of the block could maybe be a positive harbinger of changes to come. Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief for the New York Times, says rumours inside the country are that the “glitch” may have been the result of a battle between the hardliners who want to keep the block and those who want a free Internet in Iran.
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