Internet Glitches Allow Iranians to Access Places Previously Inaccessible – Briefly

( [email protected] ) Sep 19, 2013 11:59 AM EDT
The joy of Iran’s Facebook and Twitter fans was short-lived as authorities on Tuesday restored blocks on social networks after filters were lifted for several hours overnight.
Iranians were able to briefly access previously inaccessible parts of the internet, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The joy of Iran's Facebook and Twitter fans was short-lived as authorities on Tuesday restored blocks on social networks after filters were lifted for several hours overnight.

The brief access was a "technical glitch" that was quickly rectified, according to communications official Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, from the board overseeing Internet in Iran, according to The Associated Press.

"The Washington Post's WorldViews blog and the website Quartz both reported that access to Twitter was possible in Iran without some kind of technology assist, like VPN software," according to The Wall  Street Journal. "It was unclear if access was only possible in parts of the country or the nation as a whole, or if it was a fluke. Periodically, Facebook users in Iran report that they can access the social-networking site without difficulty or going through special software."

This could also point to increasing internal struggles between groups seeking to reopen Facebook and other social networking sites, and hard-liners in the Iranian establishment, who remain firmly in control of Internet access.

Many Facebook and Twitter followers in the capital, Tehran, and other Iranian cities assumed the surprise Internet freedoms late Monday were the result of policies by newly elected President Hasan Rouhani, who has pledged more outreach to the West and a new openness in Iran, according to The Associated Press.

Scores of Facebook users posted notes of "Rouhani, Mochakerim," which is Farsi for "Thank you, Rouhani."

"God liberated Facebook," wrote Mohammad Reza on his Facebook, adding that it was his happiest time ever.

The postings quickly subdued when reality struck and the sites were no longer available on Tuesday morning, forcing Iranian Internet users to again have to go through proxy servers for access, according to The Associated Press.

The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Khoramabadi, the communications official, as saying that board members were unclear as to what had caused the "technical failure regarding some Internet service providers." He warned of unspecified measures if it turns out to have been an international move against Iran.

"We will take action if there was a human flaw," said Khoramabadi. "We are probing it."

Thomas Erdbrink, Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, sent several tweets via his mobile phone without the need to go via a proxy that circumvents official blocks.

Most Iranians who want to use social media have typically used proxies or other special software to get around the government imposed firewall.

Iranians reacted with cautious optimism when they realized Facebook and Twitter were freely accessible, according to the BBC.

"If it is true, I think they have to register today in calendar as a day of Free Filtering," user Abbas Farokhi told BBC Persian.

Another, Benyamin HM, said: "Do not get over excited, it has happened because of some technical problems. It will be filtered again and we have to use proxy."

Initially it was thought the block was being lifted for everyone in Iran, signaling the start of a more tolerant attitude towards social media by the government, according to the BBC.