Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has praised Facebook, saying internet social media are a “blessing for the world.” ISNA reports that the head of Iran’s Expediency Council, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, at a recent gathering to discuss developments in the Middle East, said the role of the internet in these developments is commendable.
“Today, a page on Facebook, has the same effect of numerous television and radio channels and, without any costs, can influence millions of people,” Ayatollah Rafsanjani said. “Or videos taken by mobile phones are immediately reflected across the world, and this is all a blessing for the world.”
These statements are in stark contrast to the usual Islamic Republic portrayal of the internet as a “spying tool.”
“Although some people do not appreciate it, if we consider the prosperity of humanity and the movement against oppression, injustice and cruelty, we will realize that without this form of news outlets, it would become very dangerous,” Ayatollah Rafsanjani stated.
The head of the Expediency Council stressed that it is no longer possible to stop the flow of information, adding: “If we stop one thing, 10 others grow in its place, and when people find the way to get information, it is impossible to stop them.”
Internet social networking sites such as Facebook were instrumental in the recent developments in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.
Iranian protesters in 2009 also used the YouTube and Facebook to rally protesters and disseminate information about their demonstrations, which flared up over alleged fraud in the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The widespread crackdown on the 2009 protesters was combined with an aggressive state policy against many websites, and most social networking and news sites are currently blocked by the Islamic Republic, and Iranian users can only access them using internet proxies.