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Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei 'likes' Facebook despite ban

Supreme Leader dodges filters to post status, photos

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Iran is a nation known for its heavy-handed censorship of the internet, but it is still possible to access Facebook from within its borders – particularly, that is, if you happen to be the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Ayatollah set up his new Facebook profile on Friday, and it has already garnered nearly 6,000 "Likes", even though the social network is technically blocked by the Iranian government's internet filters.

Although tech-savvy Iranians have found a number of ways around the government blockade, average citizens are unable to access many prominent English-language websites from within Iran, including Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times, among others.

In 2010, Iran's state-run TV news channel actually went as far as to denounce Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a "Zionist", claiming (falsely) that the hoodie-wearing exec offered cash prizes for Israelis who killed Palestinians.

None of this has seemingly dissuaded Ayatollah Khamenei from signing up for Facebook himself, however. So far, he has used his profile to post photographs of himself and links to his speeches in Persian.

This isn't the first time the Supreme Leader has used the internet to spread his message, either. Khamenei, who came to power in 1989, has maintained an official Twitter feed for several years, and in August he actually joined Instagram.

Bizarrely, that makes the Islamic leader fairly modern, as religious figures go. By comparison, Catholic Pope Benedict XVI only joined Twitter in early December, and so far he has resisted the urge to do any photo-blogging.

How long the Ayatollah will maintain his public internet presence, however, is unclear. Iran has repeatedly claimed that it is developing its own, private "Islamic network", and that once construction is complete, it plans to unplug from the public internet altogether.

Experts have viewed such claims with skepticism, but even if they eventually prove true, it seems likely that the Iranian leader might maintain his online profiles as information (or disinformation) services for those outside the country.

After all, by flouting his country's own internet filters to access the blocked services, Khamenei has already demonstrated that he has no qualms about applying a double standard. ®

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