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Iran: Friends with (social media) benefits?

By Milana Knezevic / 23 January, 2014

During the World Economic Forum currently taking place in Davos, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani dropped some major news — he doesn’t write his own social media messages.

While there has been some confusion in the past about who actually runs his accounts (English and Persian), this confirmation from the man himself may come as a blow to his hundreds of thousands of followers. Since bursting onto the Twitter scene, the 140-characters-or-less long messages — from (later denied) holiday greetings…

…to (later deleted) details of chats with colleagues…

– have been known to cause a stir. Indeed, large parts of Iran’s political elite seem to have taken to social media, as accounts were “set up for every candidate” in last year’s presidential election. Even Ayatollah Khamenei appears to have his own Facebook page.

Meanwhile, most Iranians don’t have the same privilege. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are all blocked in the country. The crackdown on social media came in the wake of the massive 2009 protests known as the Green Revolution. But Rouhani — or rather, his Twitter team — told the site’s founder back in October that “efforts” were being made to allow citizens to “access all info globally”.

Maybe today’s comments were part of these efforts? Maybe all the citizens of Iran have to do to access social media freely, is become friends with a high-ranking politician?

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