Facebook Warned Over Illegal Hosting of Iranian Ministers

Mark Zuckerberg.

Tel Aviv based civil rights organization Shurat HaDin has sent a warning letter to Facebook Chairman Mark Zuckerberg, informing him that the provision of internet services to Iranian government ministers was illegal, under the United States’ sanctions being imposed against the Islamic Republic.

In recent days, Iranian officials had been encouraged to open Facebook pages, by evading the government-imposed firewall that blocks Facebook and utilizing an alternative site. Ordinary Iranian citizens are, however, prohibited from logging onto the regular Facebook pages. Shurat HaDin contends that the ministers’ Facebook pages are part of a propaganda effort by the newly-elected Iranian government, to place a liberal face on the oppressive regime’s civil rights violations and support for international terrorism. By encouraging ministers to use Facebook and other social media, the rulers in Tehran now intend to promote the cosmetic appearance, solely for western consumption, of instituting a more open atmosphere in this brutal Islamic regime.

More after the jump.
As Shurat HaDin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner wrote in her to letter to Zuckerberg:

Please be advised that providing social media and other associated services to ministers of the Government of Iran is illegal under the OFAC administered sanctions regime. In addition, Iran’s support of designated terrorist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas may expose persons providing services to the Government of Iran to liability under the criminal and civil provisions of Chapter 113B, Title 18 United States Code, and of the criminal provisions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, of numerous Executive Orders and of their implementing regulations.

The letter warned the social network giant, that the continued provision of Facebook services to the Iranian officials after it had been warned, could open up Zuckerberg and his company to both criminal and civil prosecutions:

Many U.S. entities and individuals who have provided material support to terrorists have been sued by the terror victims and their families for aiding and abetting international terrorism. Many of these defendants now find themselves defending against multimillion dollar civil actions in federal courts around the United States. In addition, American corporations that provided material support to militant organizations in the Middle East are currently defendants in multimillion dollar civil actions in U.S. federal courts brought by the victims of these groups, and officers and principals of such corporations have also become defendants.

During the past 24 hours, the Islamic regime apparently unblocked Facebook services for a few hours, but then quickly reinstated the firewall. Thus, the only ones enabled to view the Iranian minister’s Facebook pages are those websurfers living in western democratic states. Darshan-Leitner states:

If Facebook thinks that it is above the law, now it has been warned that it could be civilly and criminally liable for the actions of Iran and its agents for supporting terror. There is no person or organization in the U.S. which is not bound by the American sanctions against Iran. It makes no sense that a publicly traded company like Facebook would be involved in assisting this brutal Islamic regime in promoting a more liberal face simply for western consumption. The only individuals able to access the Iranian officials pages are Europeans and Americans. Regular Iranian citizens are still prohibited.


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