The Iranian government is no stranger to controversies when it comes to limiting free speech. Lately, it seems social media and the Web are its targets with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube being outright blocked within the nation for most users (some top officials still use them).

A government-led crackdown on the Web and social media took place in 2012 in Iran, this also included surveillance on users in Internet cafes. The government then promised its citizens that it will allow for a more transparent Web policy when Hassan Rouhani was elected in June, 2013. However, this wasn't the case and people actually ended up arrested.

Late in 2013, 16 cyber activists and journalists were victims of the new president's government as they were arrested. Now, eight people were sentenced to prison with terms ranging up to 20 years. In addition, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was ordered by the South Iranian court to testify in a lawsuit of Instagram and Whatsapp (apps owned by Facebook) users regarding online privacy rights.

Do not expect Zuckerberg to put on a suit and fly to Iran anytime soon, however, as there is no extradition treaty between Iran and the United States. Such a trip would certainly be risky for the Facebook founder. 

The information comes from a semi-official news agency from Iran called ISNA. The news agency quoted an official within Iran, named Ruhollah Momen Nasab, who said the apps should be blocked. 

Despite the president's government crackdown on social media, it is said to be moderate in comparison to former Iranian leaderships. Nasab was also quoted saying that the "cyber world" should be seen as an opportunity and that the government should trust its youth.

What is interesting about Iran is that sometimes apps or social media get blocked within its borders by various courts, but depending on the city or region of the country they may still be accessible to a degree. Instagram was lately blocked by another Iranian court, but still remained operational in the capital city of Iran, Tehran.

What is happening in Iran and the rest of the Middle East right now is being dubbed the "social media revolution." The latest situation in Iran is being inspired by Egypt and the other nations where revolts were sparked through the use of social media (Arab Spring). Messages can be spread virally and seen by thousands of people within the Middle East.

Iran is worried as it should be. It also understands the power of social media and may be overestimating its ability to control it. The more it tries to censor and control its population, the more likely the population will rebel and form a stronger coalition against the current government. It has happened in the past and it seems political leaders in the region refuse to learn from past mistakes of other leaders.

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