Iran Blocks Facebook Ahead of Election

The next Iranian revolution will not be on Facebook.

Iran's government has  blocked access to the popular social networking site, a move critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned on Sunday as an apparent attempt to muzzle the opposition ahead of next month's election.

Blogs and web sites such as Facebook have become important campaign tool for the leading reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, to mobilize Iran's critical youth vote before the June 12 balloting.

Mousavi has 5,000 fans on the site, according to the BBC.

Iranian authorities often block specific web sites and blogs considered critical of the Islamic regime, but the timing of the latest clampdown suggested it was done to hobble opponents of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Facebook is one of the only independent sources that the Iranian youth could use to communicate," said Mohammed Ali Abtahi, a former vice president and now adviser to another pro-reform candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, a former parliament speaker.

Abtahi said the loss of Facebook — and possibly other web sites popular with reformists — will leave Iranians "forced to rely on government sources" such as state-run media before the election.

Ahmadinejad is in a four-way race for re-election against the two pro-reform candidates and fellow conservative Mohsen Rezaei.

The Internet and other technology have increasingly become part of Iranian political movements in the past decade. Even Ahmadinejad has his own blog.

During the last presidential race in 2005, information about rallies and campaign updates were sent by text message. In recent years, political blogs by Iranians in the country and abroad have grown sharply. Newcomers such as Twitter also are gaining in popularity.

Iranian officials did not comment on the reported block, while representatives for Facebook had no immediate response to queries either.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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