Iran's chief of police, Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, has said that the country is developing software to control social-networking sites.
Speaking to reporters on January 2
, Ahmadi Moghadam said the "smart control" of social-networking sites is more useful than their complete filtering.
"The smart control of social-networking sites not only prevents their harm, but also allows people to benefit from their useful parts," he said. Moghadam said the establishment last year of a Supreme Council of Cyberspace was a factor in reaching that conclusion.
His comments come some three weeks after the launch of a Facebook page devoted to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which is believed to have been created and administered by his office.
The page has led to domestic calls for the unblocking of Facebook
, which is filtered in Iran.
Until recently, Iranian officials warned citizens against the use of social-networking sites, which the state considered evil Western tools in the “soft war” aimed at bringing down the clerical establishment.
Iran filters Facebook and, apparently, also monitors it. Yet millions of Iranians access the social-networking site through antifiltering tools. The recent developments suggest a growing willingness to admit that filtering of social-networking sites has not served the establishment's purposes.
Moghadam's comments could also indicate that the Islamic republic is working to more aggressively monitor social-networking sites, which have provided activists with a relatively free platform for disseminating information about taboo issues.
In recent months, several activists have been threatened and detained over their Facebook postings, including blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died last year in custody after being arrested by Iran's cybercrime police.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari