A court in Iran ordered the country's communications ministry to block Instagram, according to the Iranian news agency Mehr, though as of Friday afternoon users in Iran reported that the photo-sharing app was still available.
The AP, citing Mehr, reported that the court order stemmed from a private lawsuit. Iran already bans Facebook, Instagram's owner, and other social websites including Twitter and YouTube. Despite the official block, many Iranians still access these sites using VPNs, and several senior government officials have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, including President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Instagram declined BuzzFeed's request for comment.
The court ruling reflects broader political rifts between Rouhani and hardliners in the government who differ over the country's domestic direction. Iran's judiciary as a whole is largely opposed to Rouhani's reform platform, and often uses court rulings and arrests to counter his proposals. Rouhani has repeatedly made public statements in support of increasing media and internet freedoms in Iran. Media monitors, however, say that since his election in 2013 there have been little institutional changes to Iran's notoriously censored media regime.
In early May, rumors circulated that Iran's censor had banned WhatsApp because the company's new owner, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is Jewish. Rouhani spoke out and countered that he, on the Iranian government's behalf, opposed the ban. The communications minister, a Rouhani appointee, also denounced the ban. Many of the members of the censorship committee that passed the ban tilt toward the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), a group officially tasked with preserving Iran's Islamic revolution — and which often publicly opposes Rouhani's policies.
On Wednesday, Rouhani seemed to imply support for the six Iranian youth arrested, and then released, for posting a video of themselves dancing together to Pharrell's "Happy" on rooftops in Tehran.
As news of the court order circulated, Iranian journalist Negar Mortazavi shared translated tweets from Iranian users, who had a more cynical take on the ban's intent and potential impact.
Iranians also turned to #IranNetFreedom to share in and express their opposition and await the outcome.
Former BuzzFeed World Reporter, Current BuzzFeed News Contributor
Contact Miriam Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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