Who has the key to free the Facebook?

Tehran, March 5, IRNA – Speculations about greater freedoms in virtual space began with beginning of President Hassan Rouhaniˈs tenure. Lifting filtration on the Facebook was among initial demands and a campaign under that title was launched in that network.

The membership of a good number of cabinet members in that social network increased the hopes for lifting its filtration, but who really has the key to liberate the Facebook in Iran?

The Facebook filtering might be the most frequently used phrase heard ever since the Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ali Jannati took office in that ministry. A few days ago in a working breakfast he had with the members of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce Jannati referred to the need to lift the filtration on the Facebook.

ˈWe cannot block the path for the growth of a phenomenon on pretext of preserving the Islamic values in the country,ˈ he said. Therefore, lifting the filter off the Facebook is among the issues that will be done in a while.

The culture minister whose membership in Facebook is among the first memberships of the officials and cabinet ministers in that social network has also said, ˈI personally, along with a group of the countryˈs elites, believe that it is not possible to segregate the individuals within a tight barrier and claim that we do not need to have relations with the world on pretext of preserving the Islamic values.

ˈLooking back in the history of the revolution, we will notice that many limitations imposed in the early years after the revolution were funny, such as the bans on the ownership of video sets and fax machines.ˈ

Cabinet members with Facebook pages

Ali Jannati, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Hesameddin Ashena, Maˈsoumeh Ebtekar, Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, Esˈhaq Jahangiri, and Bizhan Namdar Zangeneh are the most famous cabinet members who have pages in the Facebook.

Yet, a while ago General Esmaˈeil Ahmadi Moqaddam, the countryˈs police chief, had said, ˈIt is not a good practice that some officials of the system would try to gradually pass through the red lines and enter an atmosphere breathing in which is forbidden for the ordinary citizens.ˈ

Yet, the police chief has also clarified that our vision about the social networks is around the axis of the opportunities. That is the viewpoint that Jannati, too, has emphasized on, saying, ˈWe must use this phenomenon maximally in our favor, but resolving the issue is in need of more time.ˈ

ˈThe Facebook has 700 million members around the world, four million of whom are Iranians, but we have still restricted its usage. In the cabinet the mentality of filtering the social networks does not exist.ˈ

Who has the key to liberate the Facebook?

The Iranian Filtering Committee decided to filter the Facebook in the year 2009 four years after its introduction. The popular social network had also been filtered twice before that date, and each time its filter had been lifted. Yet, since according to the laws of the countryˈs Cyber Police membership in none of the social networks is considered a crime, lifting its filtration was once again included in the agenda of the 11th cabinet.

Jannati had in November, 2013, said that lifting the filtering of the Facebook is up to the countryˈs Filtering Committee, adding that that organization is not directly under the Culture Ministry, which has, but only one member in it.

In order to survey the matter we needed to talk with the members of that committee, so as to make sure that not only the filtering of the Facebook, but those of the other social networks, too, would be lifted and they will be legalized.

But then we were faced with the comments made by Ali Taheri, the spokesman of the Parliamentˈs Cultural Affairs Commission, who said, ˈThe government needs to be held accountable at the Cultural Commission about its intention to lift the filtering on the Facebook. If the government will present a bill for lifting the Facebookˈs filtering the ball will be practically in the Parliamentˈs yard and even if the Parliament would approve of it, it will be the Guardians Council that would have the final world on it.

ˈThat way the government has rid itself of the responsibility in practice, while the government can also legally lift the filtering of the Facebook by referring to the Filtering Committee, and also ask for lifting the filter of the other social networks. The government has six representatives in that committee who can ratify, or veto any plan,ˈ he added.

Seeking verdicts on Facebook usage

Membership in the Facebook has also been sought by committed Muslims who have sought the verdicts of their sources of jurisprudence. A while ago the Supreme Leader of the Revolution had said in response to a question: Keeping in mind that the Facebook has been filtered in Iran, is entering it merely for connections with friends, and having no anti-Islamic Republic activity, forbidden? Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khameneˈie replied, ˈGenerally speaking, if it would not be associated with sinful acts (such as promotion of corruption, publication of lies, and false material), or fearing to get inclined into committing sins, or strengthening the enemies of Islam and the Muslims, it is permitted, and there is nothing wrong with it.ˈ

Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, too, in response to a question on being forbidden of the Facebook, or not, has replied: The Facebook is like the forbidden books that the sources of jurisprudence forbid their reading for the public, but not for the elites.

ˈThe Facebook is like a city which has no gates and no walls. Everyone from the scientists and elites, to the thieves, the hooligans, those who cheat the people and are the promoters of all types of corruption, they each have a shop in that city. In those shops sometimes the necessary items for life and in many cases the means for committing sins and ethical deviations in vast scale, such as sowing the seeds of discord among nations, are presented to the public with beautiful labels and deceiving coatings.

ˈNow if entering this city will be possible for everyone, from the young juveniles to the ignorant adults and the rest, would any wise person permit everyone to enter such a city freely?

ˈEven the spies and the criminals can exchange information in this city which has no gates and no walls and sow the seeds of sedition using secret codes and notices. We say the printed press, and the media in general, need to be supervised so that the corrupt people and the criminals would not manage to pollute the society through them. Under such conditions, how could the Facebook be used free from all restrictions in the world? Some western freedoms solve none of the nationˈs problems and multiplication of the problems is by no means equal with resolving them,ˈ he said.

Yet, even Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi, too, considers membership in the Facebook under certain conditions permitted.

ˈIf entering this city would be restrictedly permitted for the scientists and the elite who can tell between the good and the bad, and the truth from the falsehood, and even their usage will be aimed at social research work, it is alright, just like the forbidden books that the source of jurisprudence consider reading them forbidden for the public, but free for the researchers in religious fields,ˈ he said.

Facebook is an online social networking service. Its name comes from a colloquialism for the directory given to students at some American universities.

Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes.

The founders had initially limited the websiteˈs membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities before it opened to high-school students, and eventually to anyone aged 13 and over.

Facebook now allows anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user of the website.

Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as friends, exchange messages, and receive automatic notifications when they update their profile.

Additionally, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics, and categorize their friends into lists such as ˈPeople from Workˈ or ˈClose Friendsˈ. As of September 2012, Facebook has over one billion active users, of which approximately 9% are fake members.



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