Iran has blocked test messaging service Whatsapp, saying parent company Facebook’s CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is an “American Zionist,” Fox News reported Friday.
“The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist,” Fox quoted Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country’s Committee on Internet Crimes, as saying.
Facebook bought the mobile messaging service in February for $19 billion in cash and stock.
Zuckerberg is Jewish, but has made little comment about Israel or about regional politics.
One Iranian blogger who asked to remain anonymous told Fox that Tehran views social media as a threat to its power.
“The government worries about the exchange of information,” he said, adding that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei realized the power of social media during the 2009 so-called ‘Green Revolution.’
At the time thousands took to the streets to protest the reelection of then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Many Iranian felt the elections were rigged and mass demonstrations were held throughout the country, but were brutally subdued by the regime.
The protest leaders remain under house arrest and their opposition Green Movement has been systematically dismantled through crackdowns and intimidation.
Current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate, was elected last summer, beating conservative rivals after vowing to fix the economy, seek improved relations with the West and promote greater freedoms.
Much of his election campaign was waged across reformist platforms as well as social media.
Facebook and Twitter are officially blocked in Iran, though a great many users circumvent these restrictions using various means. Even Rouhani himself has accounts on both websites, which are often used to convey messages on foreign and domestic matters.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.