Hard-line cleric: Social media fed Iran protests


Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

A hard-line cleric leading Friday prayers in Iran’s capital called on the Islamic Republic to build its own social media, blaming popular international messaging apps for the unrest that accompanied days of protests over the country’s flagging economy.

The demonstrations began Dec. 28 and quickly spread across the country, prompting the government to suspend access to the messaging app Telegram, which was being used to publicize the protests, and briefly block the Instagram photo-sharing site. Twitter and Facebook already were banned.

With travel restricted across Iran, a nation of 80 million people roughly two-and-a-half times the size of Texas, online videos and images posted by activists have provided some of the only glimpses into the demonstrations, the largest in nearly a decade, which have mainly been in the provinces.

Such images provide a limited view of events on the ground, and can be easily manipulated. All of Iran’s radio and television stations are state-run.

“Cyberspace was kindling the fire of the battle,” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers gathered in Tehran. “When cyberspace was closed down, the sedition was stopped. The nation does not support a social network that has its key in the hands of the United States.”

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