An Iranian judge has summoned Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to answer allegations that his company's apps have breached people's privacy, it was reported Tuesday.
In a case that underscores the gulf between Iranian moderates, who seek fewer Internet restrictions, and conservatives who want more, the Silicon Valley leader has been dubbed the "Zionist manager" of Facebook, on account of his Jewish heritage.
The court in Fars province ordered that Zuckerberg address unspecified "violation of privacy" claims made by Iranians over the reach of Facebook-owned apps, ISNA news agency reported.
Access to social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, are routinely blocked by Iranian authorities, as are other websites considered "un-Islamic" or detrimental to the regime.
"Based on the judge's verdict, the Zionist manager of Facebook...should report to the prosecutor's office to defend himself and make compensation for damages," Rouhollah Momen-Nasab, a senior Iranian Internet security official, told ISNA.
"Following a complaint lodged by some of our fellow countrymen over the violation of their privacy and problems ensuing from WhatsApp and Instagram, the judiciary official has ordered a ban on these two software devices," he said.
Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. The report did not say what violations of privacy are alleged to have occurred.
However, a prosecutor in Shiraz, the provincial capital, denied Zuckerberg had been summoned, though claims against WhatsApp and Instagram seeking "the release of pictures and films," were being investigated.
"There are complaints against these sites for Internet fraud and release of obscene photos and the plaintiffs have asked the judiciary to identify those who are involved," prosecutor Ali Alqasi told the official IRNA news agency.
Neither WhatsApp or Instagram have been blocked, he said.
President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate, has promised greater tolerance on social, cultural and media issues - a vow that helped him defeat conservatives in last year's election. But his fledgling push has been opposed by traditionalists and ultra-conservatives that hold sway in the establishment and key institutions.
Officials have voiced support for lifting the wider ban on social media, with some of them having Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Rouhani earlier this month vetoed a plan to ban WhatsApp, preventing implementation of curbs sought by Iran's Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content. A similar ban on Instagram has also been proposed.
But the Islamic Republic's concern about internet users' rights appears to be somewhat selective.
The Facebook summons comes on the heels of the controversial arrests of six Iranian youths for the "crime" of posting a video of them dancing online to Pharrell Williams' song "Happy".
The young Iranians were later forced to issue public confessions and "repent" on national TV.