For a few brief, shining hours, countless Iranian citizens had unfettered access to Facebook and Twitter. Due to what Iranian authorities are calling a “technical glitch”, the ordinarily locked down Internet – which some call the Iranian “filternet” – had Facebook- and Twitter-shaped holes punched in it.
(Interestingly, ‘Filternet’ is the name of a U.S.-based software program for home users to install on their Windows computers, to disallow their computers from going to unapproved sites.)
Generally speaking, Internet users in Iran are not able to access Facebook or Twitter, by design. Intrepid Internet users, or those really determined to get onto the blocked social media sites, will tunnel around the blocks, typically by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
But for those few hours of relative Internet freedom, people were able to connect directly to Facebook and Twitter, rather than having to go through work-arounds.
Many were hopeful that the unblocking was intentional, as part of new President Hassan Rouhani’s promise to ease restrictions on Internet access and use – Rouhani himself now has a Twitter account.
Wrote one joyful Iranian on his Facebook timeline, “Dear friends in America, do you believe miracles?! Well one has just apparently happened in Iran and the government in Tehran has lifted its filtering on Facebook!!!”
Rumours also said that the unblocking was due to Facebook changing IP addresses (of course this would not account for the access to Twitter and other sites), and the New York Times even cited a source “close to the new government” as saying that “Monday’s move was a test conducted to see what people would do if Facebook and Twitter were opened. Apparently the test results have been unfavorable, because the sites have been closed again.”
But officials maintain that the unblocking was due to a “technical glitch” and, one official added, “If there had been any negligence, it will be punished.”