Iranian Internet-service providers had long banned Facebook, making it inaccessible to dial-up and broadband users. Government officials were fearful it could be used by intelligence officials abroad to recruit operatives or by activists to organize anti-government protests. But in January, after watching the way activists were using Facebook to promote opposition to the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, Iranian authorities apparently warmed up to the quirky website and quietly lifted the ban. Thousands of Iranians signed up to use Facebook, many of them “friending” other Iranians in the Diaspora.
Tech-savvy Iranians quickly began using the website to organize events in support of candidates in the upcoming presidential elections. According to the Iranian Labor News Agency, the site was proving especially successful in pushing the candidacy of former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, the most liberal of the candidates challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.