WhatsApp and Facebook (illustration)
WhatsApp and Facebook (illustration) Reuters

The Iranian regime has banned access to the WhatsApp messaging application because it is owned by a Jewish “American Zionist”, Fox News reported Saturday.

The announcement came some two months after Facebook bought the company for a stunning $19 billion, and a regime official connected the move directly to the founder of Facebook.

"The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist," Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country's Committee on Internet Crimes, stated, according to Fox News.

One Iranian blogger told the network the regime in Tehran is terrified of the power of social media.

“The Revolutionary Guard sees these social sites as a major threat because there’s an appeal for young people and the government worries about the exchange of information,” said the blogger, who asked not to be identified. “(Supreme Leader) Khamenei and his cronies, caught on to the power and potential of these sites after the (Green Revolution) uprisings.”

Facebook officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Iran is notorious for its internet censorship. Since the June 2009 post-election uprisings in Iran, protesters facing violent retaliation by government forces turned to the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as blogging sites, as effective and safer ways to voice political dissent.

The country’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, has indicated, however, that he intends to revise Iran’s censorship policy.

In a speech he delivered a month before being sworn in, Rouhani said that a strong government does not “limit the lives of the people.”

Two weeks after his victory in the elections, Rouhani told a popular Iranian youth magazine that he believed social networking sites such as Facebook were a welcome phenomenon.

At the same time, even under Rouhani, Iran has continued to detain activists accused of providing material to “anti-government websites”.

Iran also regularly executes people who are convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, adultery and espionage.