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Six Ministers And Two MPs Call For Unblocking Twitter In Iran

Iranian minister of ICT Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, speaking with reporters in his trip to Mashhad, on August 08, 2017.

Six Iranian ministers and two lawmakers who are members of the Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, call on the country's prosecutor to allow the unblocking of Twitter.

Twitter offers an appropriate platform for media activists and youth to play an “effective” and “powerful” role in the world, the officials wrote in an open letter on Monday, May 21.

The letter is signed by Communication Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Education Minister Mohammad Bathaee, Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi, Justice Minister Alireza Avayi, Science Minister Mansur Gholami, and Culture Minister Abbas Salehi, as well as lawmakers Ramezanali Sobhanifar and Mohammad Kazemi.

The Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content consisting of 12 members is headed by Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri and tasked with internet censorship.

By unblocking Twitter, the country’s officials hope to receive public support in their diplomatic wranglings with countries such as the United States and Israel. In the past, Iranian Twitter users have spearheaded several successful campaigns on political issuesو including one against President Trump for using the name “Arabian Gulf” instead of Persian Gulf.

So far, the committee has been very reluctant to unblock social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook since they have been used by Iranians to promote a liberal lifestyle, criticize the regime, and organize protests.

Islamic Republic authorities blocked Twitter and Facebook in the aftermath of mass protests in 2009, although many government institutions and leaders use Twitter to hone in their messages.

Recently, the government also blocked the highly popular messaging app Telegram, believed to be used by half of the country's population for accessing news, as well as for business and entertainment purposes.

According to official statistics, following the filtering of Telegram only one million users stopped using the app, the rest is still accessing it through internet circumvention tolls, including VPNs and proxy software tools. This has prompted the judicial officials to issue a warning to business owners on May 19 and urge them not to advertise or offer goods and services on the platform otherwise they will face penalties.

A member of Iranian parliament recently announced that Telegram was hosting more than 200 thousand Iranian online stores.