What Do Iran and Facebook Agree On?
Back in 2008, a young Moroccan engineer named Fouad Mourtada became the first person in his country to be arrested for a social networking-related offense. His crime? Something that happens all over the world every day...Mourtada created a Facebook profile representing one of the Moroccan princes. While Mourtada claimed he was merely a fan, he was prosecuted for identity theft and reportedly beaten in custody. After 43 days in jail and a global campaign for his release, he was finally granted a royal pardon.
In a case oddly reminiscent of that one, an Iranian man has been arrested for creating Facebook profiles of several cabinet ministers. In recent weeks, reports had emerged that certain Iranian ministers had profiles on the social networking site, but those ministers have denied the reports. Facebook and Twitter have been blocked in Iran for several years, and only high-level government officials—including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif—have official profiles on either site.
Iran has been toying with restricting its citizens to a countrywide intranet—often referred to in the Western media as the 'halal Internet'—for some time, and continues to add sites to its blacklist. Circumventing blocked websites is a crime in the country, but that hasn't stopped thousands of Iranians from accessing popular sites including Facebook.
Incidentally, "claiming to be another person" on Facebook is a violation of the company's terms of service.