Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance minister, Ali Jannati, has urged the government to legalize access to social-networking websites including Twitter and Facebook.
The country currently blocks access to websites it considers politically sensitive and to social-networking sites, which activists used in 2009 to organize street protests after a disputed presidential vote.
The existing ban has spurred some Iranians to use virtual private networks to circumvent the controls through computers located abroad.
About two million Iranians have Facebook accounts, half of them in the capital, Tehran, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard said in January.
Several Iranian officials including, foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif and foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, have Facebook or Twitter accounts or both.
“Not only Facebook, but other social networks should be accessible and the illegal qualification should be removed,” said Jannati, a former ambassador to Kuwait and the son of the influential Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.
President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in June and has a Twitter account with more than 122,000 followers, has pledged to allow more social and press freedom and reduce state “policing” of Iranians’ private lives.
Since Rouhani’s term began in August, journalists have taken advantage of new freedoms he has backed.
Articles appearing in local media in recent weeks have debated subjects once taboo, ranging from the impact of sanctions to the usefulness of the decades-old revolutionary slogan, “Death to America.”
Newspapers have also published a string of stories about opinion makers from the U.S. long dubbed the “Great Satan” in Iran’s official discourse.
However, the president’s conservative rivals say young people can be corrupted by Western-style TV shows, which Iranians also access illegally through satellite channels, or Western websites such as Facebook.
Facebook is a “calamity” in the life of married couples and may result in their divorce, Iran’s Khabaronline news website said in an October 21 editorial.
It said time spent on social networks, where one can interact with people outside the family, can weaken relations and lead to alienation.