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Iran's Supreme Leader adds Facebook to growing online presence, despite official ban

Iran's Supreme Leader adds Facebook to growing online presence, despite official ban

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, is a major force behind the country's increasingly draconian internet filtering. But Khamenei himself has now apparently showed up on a long-blocked site: Facebook. The Facebook page is one of many Khamenei pages, but unlike the others, it seems legitimate, and has been publicized by what Reuters reports is an official Twitter account run by the Supreme Leader's office. Besides Twitter and now Facebook, Khamenei's office joined Instagram earlier this year — and photos from Instagram have so far populated the Facebook page, showing a young Khamenei during the Islamic Revolution among other images.

Elsewhere, joining Facebook and Twitter would be unremarkable, but Iran has blocked social media for years. It's said to be launching its own state-controlled internet next year, and it's already launched a video sharing site to substitute for YouTube. Even Khamenei's own fatwa against tools designed to circumvent filtering was reportedly blacklisted because it included forbidden keywords. At one level, Khamenei's Facebook page shows shows the disconnect between internal and external policy, as well as that generally anti-internet political leaders still can't get around its importance. It also echoes the fact that even in Iran, filtering laws are often ignored, with nearly a third of Iranians said to use VPN software at the time of a crackdown earlier this year.