In a move to roll back the limited political and social liberalization experiment introduced by Iran's reformist President Hassan Rouhani, the country's hardline conservative judiciary has given the government one month to block WhatsApp and other social media and messaging services.
Chief prosecutor Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei accused Communications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi of failing comply with earlier directives to cut off social networking sites and apps "with immoral and criminal content."
"Despite a three month grace period to allow you and your colleagues enough time, no effective action has been taken to filter out immoral and un-Islamic offenses," said Mohseni-Ejei, who was appointed first deputy judiciary chief last month.
The final warning, which was broadcast by Iranian media on Saturday, is a response to what Mohseni-Ejei says is a failure by Communications Minister Vaezi, who promised in May to introduce what he called "smart filtering" to restrict "obscene" material from being viewed or shared.
Rouhani, who has been in office for one year, has said that he views the internet "an opportunity, not a threat."
Iran, whose population is approximately two-thirds under the age of 35, has struggled with how to manage technology and the internet.
Somewhat hilariously, an Iranian judge summoned Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court in May over complaints that Facebook-owned apps Instagram and WhatsApp violate privacy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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