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Inter-gender online communication banned in Iran

Online freedom was dealt another blow in Iran, following an order from Ayatollah Khomeini, banning men and women from communicating with one another via online chat.

Iran has continued to make headlines when it comes to limitations on the state of online freedom in the country. While President Hassan Rouhani and other prominent figures including the ayatollah himself have active presences on Facebook and Twitter, much of the country's citizens do not. This is because Iran has implemented strict limitations on the use of these online tools.

Protests in 2009 about a controversial election led to the banning of these social media outlets as they were instrumental in the mobilization of Iranians. Now it seems as though these limitations are going to be extended further.

Communication bans
Al Arabiya reported that the Ayatollah recently banned online chatting between unrelated men and women following a fatwah. His justification is that there are immoral implications with this kind of activity, according to the news source.

This ban comes just days after authorities in the country prohibited the use of a popular messaging app on smartphones to connect users to social networks. While these bans are in place, a number of Internet users are able to circumvent these blocks. However, it still reveals a harsh double standard that exists in the country.

The news source noted that current President Rouhani has 163,000 Twitter followers and was elected on a platform that planned to give more individual rights back to citizens. However, this recent action shows that this is simply not the case. In fact, this is only the most recent limiting of Internet freedoms within the country.

Arrests made
This news comes about one month after 16 cyber activists and journalists were arrested by the Revolutionary Guard. Mashable reported that in December 2013, this group of people was detained for working against national security, having ties with enemy media and designing websites that went against the regime.

The recent banning of cross gender communication online coupled with the detention of these netizens indicates that the state of online freedom seems to have only gotten worse in the country since Rouhani took power. What is worse is that these leaders partake in the very outlets that they have prohibited their citizens from using. If the country is to truly realize a free and open internet, it needs to lift these kinds of bans and make cyberspace more accessible.

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