Skip to main content

Twitter blocks accounts of Iranian state media outlets

Company cites harassment of people linked to Baha'i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran
Twitter's micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using virtual private networks (AFP/file photo)

A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said on Saturday that it acted after the harassment of people linked to the Baha'i faith.

The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private network, or VPN, to bypass censorship.

Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran's seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure.

Still, Twitter cited what it said was a coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha'i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran, AFP reported.

The company did not identify the suspended accounts and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.

"Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules," read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets' accounts.

Last August, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube collectively removed hundreds of accounts tied to an alleged Iranian propaganda operation.

Digital security experts told Middle East Eye at the time that Iran's efforts were unsophisticated and may have amounted to little more than a dozen-or-so staff in a Tehran office running off a shoestring budget.

Iranian Baha'i leader released from jail
Read More »

On Saturday, Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking "international maritime rules" in the strait, a choke point for around a third of the world's sea-borne oil.

Mehr's Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists' Club.

"Since last night and after seizure of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz the account of the Young Journalists' Club and some other users have been suspended," the YJC said on its website.

Mehr noted that its Mehr Diplomacy account, which publishes analysis and interviews on foreign policy, was also offline.

Another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hardline public speaker.

None of the owners of the suspended accounts said they had been given any reason for the move by Twitter.