Not to be out done by the Pope’s recent tweets, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has gone live with his own Facebook (News - Alert) page. The fact that he has a Facebook page is not that remarkable, but what makes it so unordinary is the fact that, typically, Iranians are not allowed to use the site. The government has banned the use of Facebook since 2009, so the leader’s page has to be targeted to everyone outside of Iran and those privileged enough to use the platform. A Twitter (News - Alert) account with the same name of Khamenei.ir was also established. Currently, the Supreme Leader has 11,257 likes on his Facebook page and 7,605 followers on Twitter.
The impact of social media cannot be understated, especially in the light of the Arab Spring uprisings that have taken place in the past 24 months. The medium has been used effectively to mobilize countless people to start demonstrations and highlight the injustice taking place in these countries. It is still being used effectively in places, such as Syria, to show the daily struggle rebel groups face at the hands of the Assad regime.
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Although the Iranian government blocks Facebook and Twitter, the sites are still being used by millions of people in the country by going around the blockade. The country blocks an estimated 15,000 sites covering every imaginable subject matter.
The Facebook page has images of Khamenei throughout his life, chronicling his rise to the position he is currently holding. The government blocked Facebook in 2009 after demonstrators used it to protest the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Media outlets have been used for propaganda by every despot who has suppressed freedom to its people. The Internet is no different in that regard, the only difference is the message being disseminated has a global reach.
Currently, Iran is facing the brunt of an economic embargo that is draining its resources. The leaders in the country have been adamant about the intended use of their nuclear program, insisting it is for civilian use. The West and Israel, on the other hand, are not entirely convinced of the true intention of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman