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Iran's conservatives see Twitter as next battleground

A prominent Iranian conservative compared being active on Twitter to being active on a battlefield.
Customers use computers at an internet cafe in Tehran May 9, 2011. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and countless others were banned shortly after the re-election of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the huge street protests that followed. Seen by the government as part of a "soft war" waged by the enemies of the Islamic Republic, social networking and picture sharing sites were a vital communication tool for the anti-Ahmadinejad opposition -- more than a year before they played a similar rol

When Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif began his tenure in 2013, the American-educated diplomat knew that he would need to bypass many of the traditional media outlets to spread Iran's message directly on the international stage. At the time, there was no platform better suited for this objective than Twitter. There was only one problem. Since the 2009 protests, Twitter, along with Facebook and YouTube, had been blocked in Iran.

Zarif's use of Twitter via software to bypass Iran's internet restrictions was a clear and very visible admission by the government itself that the lack of online presence, particularly on Twitter, was detrimental to Iran's spreading its viewpoints on the world stage. With Zarif's entry, journalists and activists, mostly Reformists and moderates, quickly jumped in. Several years later, Iran's conservatives caught on to how important the platform was not only on the world stage, but also domestically.

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