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Iranian Internet users were able to access Facebook and Twitter for the first time in four years on Monday, but that wasn’t a sign Iran was loosening its restrictions on the social media sites. It was just a big, fat glitch.
“The lack of a filter on Facebook last night was apparently due to technical problems, and the technological committee is investigating this issue,” the Iranian government told Iran’s Mehr news agency.
Since 2009, Iran has blocked access to the big social media sites, which it said had a hand in spurring demonstrations during the country’s elections. After Monday’s momentary lapse, those restrictions are back in place.
Still, there’s reason for optimism here. Since new president Hassan Rouhani took office in August, there has been a notable, if slightly sporadic, loosening of restrictions on social media sites, particularly for Iranian officials.
More, Rouhani, a moderately reformist cleric, promised multiple times during his election campaign that he’d ease some of the country’s Internet censorship. “A strong government does not mean a government that interferes and intervenes in all affairs [and] that limits the lives of the people,” Rouhani said back in July.
All of this gives observers hope that Monday’s glitch wasn’t a glitch at all but rather a tentative experiment in how to undo some of the restrictions without causing too much damage.
“I think we could be seeing a partial unblocking of Facebook, along the lines of Google, in which some search results are filtered but others are not. Rouhani would also score clear kudos [from] his supporters in this way,” Siavush Randjbar-Daemi, a professor at Manchester University, told Reuters.