The Iranian regime has banned access to the WhatsApp messaging site, a popular site for many to communicate both inside and outside the country, stating that a Jewish “American Zionist” owns the site.
The announcement came some two months after Facebook bought the company for a stunning $19 billion, and a regime official connected the move directly to the founder of Facebook.
“The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist,” Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country’s Committee on Internet Crimes, stated.
One Iranian blogger told FoxNews.com the regime in Tehran is terrified of the power of social media.
“The Revolutionary Guard sees these social sites as a major threat because there’s an appeal for young people and the government worries about the exchange of information,” said the blogger, who asked not to be identified. “(Supreme Leader) Khamenei and his cronies, caught on to the power and potential of these sites after the (Green Revolution) uprisings.”
Facebook officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Since the June 2009 post-election uprisings in Iran, protesters facing violent retaliation by government forces turned to the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as blogging sites, as effective and safer ways to voice political dissent.
Soon after, rumors began about the government cutting the Internet altogether and replacing it with a Halal Net, or Islamically permissible Intranet that would only allow access to government-approved sites.
Now, the buzz inside the country is that applications such as Viber, Tango, Instagram and Facebook could be banned next.
Censorship official Khoramabadi said while there are no current plans or orders to block these sites, they may be added in the future.
Late last year, there was media stir about the government’s decision to block access to another popular chatting site called WeChat.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, began tracing Internet activity in the aftermath of the 2009 Green Revolution and in 2011, police forces formed the Iranian Cyber Police, or FATA solely to counter Internet crimes.
The committee overseeing criminal Internet activity now has 13 members including six officials from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani`s cabinet.
Ironically, Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and many other regime officials have become active on Twitter and Facebook and communicate globally through these platforms.
Over the last few years, Iranians have become accustomed to accessing mainstream social and information sites through third-party proxies in order to circumvent restrictions and avoid government surveillance.
In October of 2012, Iran’s cyber police arrested 35-year-old Sattar Beheshti, a blogger, for crimes “against national security on social networks and Facebook.”
Beheshti had openly criticized the government online. He was found dead less than a month later in his prison cell and is believed to have been tortured to death, the government denied that was the case.
Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.