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Iran has started censoring images posted on photo sharing app Instagram, removing content deemed "offensive" as part of a government project to screen social networking accounts, AFP reported Thursday, citing Iranian local media.

"The filtering of pages with immoral content began yesterday (Wednesday) evening on Instagram," the government daily Iran was quoted as having said.

The Shargh newspaper said that access to other posts was still possible.

"With the successful filtering of offensive content on social networks, it is no long necessary to completely block them and users can access the site properly," it added.

According to the semi-official Iranian Fars news agency, telecommunications minister Mahmoud Vaezi said the first phase of a government plan to filter content had been "successful on the network which was under the most pressure," referring to Instagram.        

He added that between five and 10 percent of content would be affected by the measures.

In October, an Instagram account called Rich Kids of Tehran was temporarily blocked after several pictures showed drink-fuelled parties and girls in Western dress, despite the ban on alcohol in Iran, where women are obliged to wear headscarves.

Iran is notorious for its internet censorship. Since the June 2009 post-election uprisings, 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.

In September, Iran's judiciary gave the government one month to block WhatsApp and other popular instant messaging services, saying such social networking sites and apps contained "immoral and criminal content."

The censorship continues despite claims from the country’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, 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.

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