The Obama administration has reached out to the people of Iran through the launch of Virtual Embassy Tehran, an online portal that serves as a reference for US perspective on Iran, current news, and world politics as a whole. Yet almost as quickly as the site was launched, it was blocked by the Iranian regime in accordance with the country's far-reaching computer crime laws. It's predictable behavior for a country weary of the power found within the internet and social media: technology played a massive role in the organized rebellion of the 2009 Iranian protests, and the government has kept a watchful eye over problematic websites ever since. The Arab Spring movement that has upended several leaders in the region has by all accounts increased scrutiny even further, particularly on social media sites.
Designed using input gathered on USA darFarsi Twitter and Facebook accounts put in place earlier this year, Virtual Embassy Tehran also offers visa information for those wishing to travel to and study within the United States. A welcome statement establishes that the project is not intended as an official US diplomatic mission, but rather "a bridge between the Iranian and American people" after three decades of continued isolation.
While the site has now been blocked, it is just the latest tactic used by a tech-savvy Obama White House to overcome Iran's hard line on censorship and create a dialogue with its people. The administration has pledged to continue with that effort — we'll see if it can find a way around the iranian blockade.