07/11/2013 Blog

All the right signals, now time to stop the filtering

Twitter Rouhani and Jack copy

On November 12, Iran’s Culture Minister called for social media networks, and specifically Facebook, to be unblocked. This is reminiscent of the recent exchanges between the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey, where after being prompted by Mr. Dorsey the President tweeted that his government was working on making social media accessible to all. In case you missed it the tweet read:

“Evening, @Jack. As I told @camanpour, my efforts geared 2 ensure my ppl’ll comfortably b able 2 access all info globally as is their #right.”

These public pronouncements in favor of Internet freedom and access to online information have been both fascinating and reassuring.

Fascinating because there is still something wonderfully refreshing about Twitter’s ability to directly connect people from different walks of life and different countries, a novelty made even more profound when one considers that in this case the two people involved were an American CEO and an Iranian President.

Fascinating also because an Iranian Culture Minister is calling for access to social media, once thought of as something only for teenagers, for all the country’s residents, in part because top officials, including the Supreme Leader, already use these platforms. President Rouhani is active on Twitter while his administration has embraced social networks, particularly the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

I hope that these positive noises and clear enthusiasm are rapidly translated into action – action that is desperately needed in a country where access to the world wide web is strictly curtailed. As outlined in my recent report, Twitter and Facebook are among at least 5 million sites blocked in Iran, including many dedicated to news, politics, music, women’s rights, human rights, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities. So I wish to join Mr. Dorsey in his reply tweet to the president:

“@HassanRouhani thank you. Please let us know how we can make it a reality.”