Hard-line cleric blames social media for fueling Iran protests, unrest

By Jon Gambrell

A hard-line cleric leading Friday prayers in Iran’s capital called on the Islamic Republic to build its own social media, blaming popular international messaging apps for the unrest that accompanied days of protests over the country’s flagging economy.

The demonstrations began on Dec. 28 and quickly spread across the country, prompting the government to suspend access to the messaging app Telegram, which was being used to publicize the protests, and briefly block the Instagram photo-sharing site. Twitter and Facebook were already banned.

With travel restricted across Iran, a nation of 80 million people roughly two-and-a-half times the size of Texas, online videos and images posted by activists have provided some of the only glimpses into the demonstrations, the largest in nearly a decade, which have mainly been held in the provinces.

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