Amid high tensions between Washington and Tehran, the US State Department has called on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to suspend the accounts of Iranian government leaders until Tehran re-establishes internet coverage throughout the riot-torn country. “It is a deeply hypocritical regime,” Brian Hook, special US representative for Iran, said in an interview. The government imposed a near-total Internet blackout more than a week ago amid violent protests.
“It shuts down the internet while its government continues to use all of these social media accounts. So one of the things that we are calling on are social media companies like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter to shut down the accounts of Supreme Leader Khamenei, the Foreign Minister Zarif and President Rouhani until they restore the internet to their own people,” he said.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Friday, the United States imposed sanctions on Iranian communications minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi for what it said was his role in the “vast censorship” of the internet.
In a tweet Friday translated into Farsi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited any Iranian who witnessed government “repression” to send documentation to the US, promising it would sanction any abuses.
Iran’s economy has primarily been battered since the country has been locked in a standoff with the United States and its Gulf Arab allies since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal that gave it relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, whose board of trustees includes President Hassan Rouhani, as well as Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s defence ministry.