April 8, 2021
Iran’s attorney general says the government has not decided whether it will be block or filter the popular app Clubhouse, which has attracted widespread news coverage in recent days because of the large number of Iranians using it, including the country’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri’s comments followed Zarif’s widely-reported use of the app on March 31 to defend Iran’s deal with China and lash out at a fictional TV show that implicitly attacks his ministry. Speaking at a press conference on April 6, reporters asked Montazeri whether Clubhouse, like many other social media platforms, would be banned in Iran. According to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), he replied that no decision had been made.
The attorney general also referred to remarks made by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ali Khamenei. “We should not be proud to say that our country’s cyberspace is free; it must be managed,” he told Iranians during his annual speech to mark the Persian new year. He went on to describe the handling of online activities in Iran as “chaotic.”
While Iranian authorities debate policy pertaining to Clubhouse, Iranian political activists and journalists based both inside and outside Iran are using the app to discuss a range topics, including voting in the country’s presidential election in May and other social, political and economic issues the nation faces.
In recent years, popular social media including Facebook, Twitter and Telegram have been filtered numerous times in Iran, but many Iranians have been able to access them anyway using filter breakers and other circumvention technologies.
During the press conference, Montazeri also referred to the blocking of YouTube. When asked whether bans on the site had been lifted he said the government was considering such a move. At the same time, he admitted that mobile technologies were ahead of some of Iran’s filtering programs, meaning that the most up to date devices were able to access YouTube easily because filters were not effectively blocking the site as they had been designed to do.